Advent 2014: Pecan Brown Sugar Thumbprints

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My mom has been making these since the 70's, and I think they might be the first cookies I ever baked. They are still completely magical. I'm not sure where the recipe came from--something like Good Housekeeping or Betty Crocker. We have always just called them "Thumbrints," but I notice most recipes use white sugar instead of brown, are sweeter, don't use nuts, and are most definitely sub-par. I can't believe they haven't made it only this blog yet. Your lucky day.

We ate these while decorating the tree tonight with my parents. Loretta whined because she was tired, Wyatt shot nerf hoops most the time, but I'm sitting here now next to the lit, ornament-festooned tree, feeling in my bones the sadness and nostalgia that will come when Yancey and I decorate the tree without them. I hope I'm able to let seasons come and go, to let the tide go in and out. The definition of "good" isn't that it lasts forever. But sometimes I want these days to last forever. And what a sweet longing that is.

Pecan Brown Sugar Thumbprints
I like to make these (and most cookies) quite small. They last longer, and all I really ever want is a bite with my coffee or tea. I have always used raspberry jam, but I had some quince jam thumbrpints at The London Plane that blew me away. Of course you can use whatever is in your pantry. Lemon curd would be delicious, too. And I added some flaked salt to the chopped nuts because I couldn't help myself. You can leave it out if you're not the salt freak that I am. 

1 c. (2 cubes) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. brown sugar (I used dark brown. Either light or dark will work.)
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 tsp. flake salt (optional)
jam or preserves 

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream together butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt. 

Shape dough into 1" balls. Beat egg whites slighltly. Dip balls into white then roll in chopped nuts/flake salt mixture. Place cookies about 1" apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and press thumb deeply into the center of each. Bake until light brown, about 10 minutes. Cool thoroughly, then fill with jam or preserves. 

*If you check on the cookies before they're done baking and notice that the thumb indents are puffing up, you can stick your finger or a spoon in there and gently press down again so you've got maximum room for jam when they are done.