I first tasted Vegan Thumbprints at a Zen Buddhist monastery deep in the California wilderness. Because the location was so remote, homemade cookies were one of our few treats, so needless to say, we were verrrry attached (ahem) to the kitchen's cookie offerings. I'm boldly revealing my not-very-blissful ignorance when I admit to sighing in disappointment when I first saw these vegan cookies on the menu. But one bite was all it took for my ignorance to drop away like a veil. (Ha!) These cookies are that amazing! Read on for the recipe.
Nutty, oat-y, sweet with maple syrup and a touch of jam, these thumbprints will please vegan and non-vegan palates alike. They're a hearty tasting cookie — I personally feel that two or three with a cup of strong hot tea is a wonderful way to start your day. They're quick to mix up, easy to form and fill, and will disappear off of your cookie plate in a twinkle.
Since my Vegan Thumbprint Awakening so many years ago, I have learned not to scoff at vegan baked goods and my life is the better for it. I hope these cookies do the trick for you, too.
2 cups whole almonds
4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour, divided
1 cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
Assorted jams of your choice (see note)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.
In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are chopped into smallish pieces. It's OK if you have a variety of sizes, just don't grind them to almond flour. I tend to leave them chunkier than most people because I like to bite into a decent piece of almond when eating these cookies. But you can grind them pretty fine, too. Dump the almonds into a large bowl.
Using the same food processor bowl, grind the oats with the salt into a fine meal and add to the almonds. Again, I like to leave a little texture in the oats. Add 1 1/4 cup of flour, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup.
Measure and pour the canola oil into the bowl, followed by the maple syrup. (Doing it in this order, and using the same measuring cup, means that all the maple syrup will glide out effortlessly. Cool!)
Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. If the dough seem runny, add the additional flour but don't worry if it is too soft, as it will stiffen up a bit as it sits. I usually let it sit for about 15 minutes.
Form into rough balls about the size of a whole walnut. The dough will be slightly wet but surprisingly not too sticky. You may want to use one of those cookie-sized ice-cream scoops if you have one (I don't). The cookies can be fairly close together as they don't spread much.
Using the back of a round quarter-teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the top of each cookie. Wipe the spoon clean and use it to fill the indentation with your jam of choice.
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cookies begin to brown slightly. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before moving to a rack to cool further (they're a bit fragile when they first come out of the oven).
• I like to use a variety of jams for taste and color on my cookie plate. My favorites are red raspberry, apricot, and quince.
• If you want to avoid sugar completely, you can dot the cookies with an almond, or a sliver of dried fruit like dried apricot or a few raisins before baking.
• I have heard of using whole wheat pastry flour instead of the regular unbleached white flour but I have yet to try it. I imagine it would be pretty good, adding to the nutty taste and hearty texture.
• The unbaked dough keeps very well in the refrigerator for about two days if kept well-covered.
• These Thumbprints are a ubiquitous vegan treat and I'm sure there are many variations out there worth exploring. Have you ever added coconut, or used pecans or hazelnuts? Tell us in the comments!
Related: Leaving Cookies for Santa
(Images: Dana Velden)