Peanut butter and jelly—the classic combo
When I was a kid, my mother would bake batch after batch of cookies during the weeks leading up to Christmas. A dozen varieties at least, usually more.
The assortment varied from year to year. But she always included these PB&J Thumbprint Cookies. How could she not? Everyone in the family clamored for them.
Try them and you’ll understand why.
Recipe: PB&J Thumbprint (Thimble) Cookies
For these cookies, we like to use crunchy peanut butter that is made from nothing more than peanuts and salt. But peanut butter with sugar added will certainly work—my mom often used that, and she preferred creamy rather than crunchy (both types work well in this recipe).
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the baker in our household. She slightly adapted this recipe from one that my mother used for years.
This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies—depending on how much dough you eat before baking! The recipe can easily be halved or doubled.
Prep time for the dough is about 15 minutes, plus baking time of about 12 minutes (you may need to bake multiple rounds).
The cookies will keep for up to a week if stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt (see Notes)
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed (see Notes)
- 6 ounces peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
- 1 large egg (consider using pasteurized; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon orange extract (may substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; see Notes)
- ~¾ cup jelly or jam for topping cookies (red currant jelly is excellent; or use strawberry, raspberry, or another flavor of your choice—see Notes)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour and salt). Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and blend well. Beat in the egg and the orange extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well blended.
- Scoop out dollops of dough and form into balls about one inch in diameter (for scooping, we use a #60 disher; see Notes). Place cookies 1½ to 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Make indents in the top of each cookie (see Notes).
- Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the cookies are just becoming firm (don’t overbake). Remove from the oven. Using a wide spatula, move the cookies to a wire rack for cooling.
- Spoon ½ teaspoon of jelly or jam into the top of each cookie. Serve and enjoy.
- Unfortunately, some people are allergic to peanuts—and if the allergy is severe, exposure can be deadly. Even being in the same room with peanut butter (or cookies made with it) can set off a bad reaction. So do be aware and make inquiries before serving these.
- If you don't have Kosher salt on hand, you can use plain table salt. In that case, though, I’d reduce the amount by about half since table salt is finer and more “condensed” than Kosher. So you’d use about 1/8 teaspoon—which amounts to a couple of pinches.
- You can substitute light brown sugar in this recipe, but I think dark brown yields the best flavor.
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized eggs for cookies. Although it’s unlikely that the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk? Especially since most of us can’t make cookies without tasting the raw dough.
- You can usually identify pasteurized eggs because they have a red “P” stamped on them.
- Some variants of this recipe use 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract instead of ½ teaspoon orange extract. My mom always used orange extract, and we prefer that version (the peanut butter flavor shines through more). But do try the vanilla variation sometime—you may like it better.
- If you go the vanilla route, be sure to use high quality (pure) vanilla extract. Its flavor is so much better than the imitation kind.
- Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol. If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers—or from coal extracts! How appetizing (not).
- The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty. You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring. Do yourself a favor and get the real stuff.
- We find that a #60 disher (scoop) digs out just the right amount of dough for each cookie. (It’s called a #60 disher because the bowl is sized so that each scoop is about 9/16th of an ounce, or a little over 1 tablespoon. Thus, you’ll get 60 scoops per quart of dough when you use this size disher.)
- What’s the best way to make indents in the center of these cookies? Well, the classic way is to use your thumb (hence the “thumbprint” name). But we find it easier to use a spoon or the small end of a melon baller.
- These cookies are sometimes called “thimble cookies” because cooks are directed to make thimble-size indents in their centers. My mother, who loved to sew, did sometimes use a thimble to make the craters.
- The cookies will puff up as they bake, which can cause the indents in the center to disappear. If this happens, just take the cookies out of the oven for a minute and press them in the center again to recreate the indents, then continue baking until done.
- Any jelly or jam that you like will probably work in these cookies. Strawberry, raspberry, and apricot are all good choices. My mother often used red currant jelly, which is the best of all, IMO. But we like to use a variety of flavors when we make these cookies—it’s fun to have choices!
“Gosh, these take me back,” I said, biting into a PB&J Thumbprint Cookie.
“I always loved these when your mom made them,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “I’m glad she gave me the recipe.”
“They look nice with all the different colored jams, too” I said. “Maybe next year we should try even more flavors.”
“Next year?” said Mrs K R. “At the rate we’re going, these will be polished off by the end of the day.”
“Oops,” I said.
“I better make another batch—and double the recipe,” she said. “Family members are going to see these on the blog, after all.”
Right, as usual. Is that clamoring I hear?
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