It's hard to think about a spread of Christmas cookies without jam-filled thumbprint cookies. They are a timeless classic — simple and straightforward, with just the right amount of elegance. And this version follows suit with crisp, buttery shortbread. The cookies are sandy and buttery with a crisp, snappy bite, and a very subtle sweetness to make the the soft, jammy center stand out.
Good Shortbread Needs Cold Butter + Cold Dough
Really good shortbread is easy to make and requires just a few basic ingredients, but their success hinges on two crucial steps: starting with cold butter and chilling the dough before baking. There's no need to bring the butter to room temperature as with most cookie recipes. Instead, to make a tender cookie, shortbread comes together with cold butter suspended throughout the dough so it bakes up snappy and crisp.
Jammy Shortbread Thumbprints
Makes 15 to 18 cookies
(1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse to combine, 2 to 3 quick pulses. Add the butter and vanilla and pulse to combine. Continue pulsing until the mixture sticks together when pressed with 2 fingers, about 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure the dough is evenly mixed.
Remove the dough from the food processor and form into a ball.
Using a spoon or cookie scoop, measure about 1 tablespoon of dough. Roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball and place on a baking sheet. Continue scooping and rolling, spacing the dough balls about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Flatten each dough ball slightly with the heel of your hand. Use your thumb to press down on the center of each ball of dough to create an indentation. Fill each indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon of jam. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.
Bake for 6 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet from front to back. Continue baking until the cookies are set but still soft, 5 to 6 minutes more.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes. Use a flat spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make ahead: The cookie dough can be refrigerated for several days before baking. It can also be scooped out onto baking sheets, pressed with a thumbprint, frozen solid, and stored in resealable freezer bags in the freezer for several months. Frozen cookies can be filled with jam and baked straight from the freezer, but may need 1 to 2 minutes extra baking time.
Storage: Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.