These thumbprint cookies are a tradition of Mother Lovett’s.
I have to admit when I pulled my first batch of thumbprint cookies out of the oven, I smelled her. And no, I’m not talking about her constant release of gas with every step she took. But have you ever seen someone walk and pass gas at the same time for minutes?
I smelled the memories of baking with her around Christmastime. It made me incredibly nostalgic, reminiscent, and hungry. So I ate a few cookies in her remembrance. This will be our first Christmas without her.
I made the dough a day ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge. She probably would have made it 4 to 5 days in advance, but she also used cheese on her sandwiches that was 3 months old.
These thumbprint cookies were so much fun to make when I was younger because they included food coloring. Do you remember how exciting food coloring (in the droppers) was as a child? I think it was so much fun for me because my mother and grandmother threatened my life if I ever played with it. So naturally, I played with it all the time.
In this case we color the coconut. It comes out pink and green. For the life of me, I could never understand why the coconut didn’t come out red since we were using red food coloring. Mother Lovett was happy, as she loved the pink. I’ll admit – it is pretty.
I’d begin by adding a drop to a cup of coconut and shaking it up. This is about the time where she’d tell me I probably added to much. Once mixed, she’d tell me that I didn’t add enough. So I’d add more. Now that was always too much for Mother Lovett. For the rest of the evening she’d complain about the color of the coconut. There was no pleasing her.
Coloring the coconut this year was stress-free. There was no one yelling at me. And I kind of missed it. But it did come out pretty.
Once the dough has somewhat softened, you roll it into a ball, dip it in some beaten egg whites, and roll it in the coconut.
Mother Lovett quadrupled the batch of thumbprint cookies every year. We never knew how many we’d come out with, since I never rolled the balls into the ‘correct’ size.
So each cookie tray always had to have a mix of colors. Her lack of presence didn’t stop me from doing the same.
After the cookies bake for 5 minutes, you yank them out of the oven and push your thumb into the middle – hence thumbprint. Again, this is something that I ‘usually didn’t do the right way.‘ After I’d push my thumb into each cookie, she’d inevitably come over and push her thumb into the cookie, overtop of my print.
The past few years I had solved this problem. She was too deaf to hear the timer, so I’d sneak behind her, yank the cookies out, push my thumb in and throw them back into the oven.
16 minutes later (after the cookies have been removed completely, and I’m onto the 2nd tray): ‘You forgot the cookies! They are going to burn!’
Good thing I was there. Or else we would all be eating black lumps of crusty burnt dough. And she was so blind that she wouldn’t know the difference.
Once the cookies were finished, the tacky decorating didn’t stop. We’d make an icing, and also color the icing pink and green.
I was always under strict instruction on how to ice the cookies.
‘Ice some of the pink with the green.’
‘Don’t ice too many with green icing, I don’t like it.’
‘Make sure you use more pink icing.’
‘Ice the mixed coconut ones with pink and green.’
Funny, I still played by her rules. I still iced them the way she wanted. And I probably always will.
- 1/4 cup shortening, I just use butter!
- 1/4 cup butter, softned
- 1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup sifted all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg white
- 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- pink and green food coloring if desired
- buttercream or cream cheese frosting, I just used a can of frosting!
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Beat the shortening and butter (I use all butter!) with your electric mixer until creamy. Add the brown sugar, egg yolk and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Sift the flour and salt together and beat it into dough until combined. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.
Lightly beat the egg white with a fork. Place 1 cup of coconut in a sealed container with 1 or 2 drops of red food coloring - then do the same with the green. Shake until the coconut is colorful. Place the coconut in separate bowls.
Dip each dough ball in the egg white. Roll into the pink and green coconut. Place the balls on a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. These don't spread much!
Bake the cookies for 5 minutes. Remove them from the oven and gently push your thumb on top of each cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes longer. let the cookies cool completely.
You can use your favorite buttercream or cream cheese frosting recipe to put in the center. Honestly, a lot of times I just get canned frosting! I add a drop of pink and green food coloring to frosting in separate bowls and stir until it's a gorgeous shade. Add a drop of frosting in the center and you're good to go!
I hope you try these cookies in Mother Lovett’s honor. Each time you eat one, I hope you think of her.
Her love of baking.
Her mispronouncement of words.
Her fridge with 95% expired goods.
Her fighting spirit.