Homemade for the holidays: Hazelnut Rosemary Jam Cookies

by Terry B on December 3, 2008

Fresh rosemary adds a subtle, mysterious something extra to Hazelnut Rosemary Jam Cookies, perfect with a cup of tea—and when holiday guests drop by. Recipe below.

Before I forget, exciting news. I was invited by Bon Appétit to participate in their upcoming holiday recipe showcase of, as the email said, “our favorite bloggers” on their website. Holy crap! They’re calling it Bon Appétit’s Blog Envy, and this cookie recipe will be featured there; I’ll let you know when it goes live. Who am I kidding? I’ll probably take out a full-page ad somewhere.

Yeah, the guy who says he never bakes baked. But these are cookies. No yeast, no punching dough down and letting it rise again in some mysterious warm, dark place. Or is it a cool, dark place? [On a side note, the term cool, dark place invariably makes me think of the Empty Bottle or the Green Mill or some other welcoming bar, and any thoughts of baking immediately vanish.]

Now what were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Cookies. Another thing about them is that, unlike cakes or pies, you bake them in batches. So if one batch gets screwed up, you’ve got more chances to get them right.

Those batches also mean you can store them in airtight containers and have them on hand for holiday guests. With a cake or a pie, once you’ve cut into it, you can only offer it to family or really good friends afterward without looking, well, overly thrifty.

As usual, the inspiration for this recipe came from a couple different sources. First, I came across a promising recipe while looking for information on hazelnuts. Reading it, I immediately remembered what fresh rosemary had done for the crust of an apple galette Marion had recently made, and a cookie idea was born. Also as usual, I looked at a bunch of different recipes, online and in cookbooks, before cobbling a number of them together into this elegantly simple recipe.

I say simple because various recipes called for vanilla or almond extract [or both], lemon zest, coconut… I wanted the hazelnuts and rosemary to star, creating a subtle, not-too-sweet cookie to play against the tart/sweet fruitiness of the jams. I’m happy to say that’s exactly what I ended up with. The rosemary is not a big, obvious herbal hit; it just adds a delicate, mysterious note that turns these cookies into a real holiday treat.

The one thing that made me feel a little silly in doing the research for these was discovering that I must be the only person in the known universe for whom making the humbly but aptly named “thumbprint cookies” was not a family tradition. I’ve always thought of them as store bought or perhaps bakery bought. Once I got over that, I decided to make them my own.

Hazelnut Rosemary Jam Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup shelled hazelnuts
1 cup butter, softened [2 sticks]
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sifted flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
good quality jam [see Kitchen Notes]

Special equipment: Parchment paper [seriously]

Toast and grind hazelnuts. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread hazelnuts in single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven until fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes [8 minutes did it for me]. Transfer to a pie plate or other dish where they can cool quickly, in a single level. When nuts are totally cooled, grind in a food processor, using short bursts; if the nuts overheat, they can grind into a paste. After several short bursts, I let them sit as I worked on the dough, occasionally give them quick blasts until they were finely ground into uniform particles. Don’t go crazy with the grinding—you want ground nuts, not powder. Leave ground hazelnuts in processor bowl.

Make the cookie dough. Cream softened butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric beater. Beat in egg and salt. Using a low speed on the mixer, gradually incorporate flour, occasionally scraping down the bowl sides to make sure it combines evenly with the butter/sugar mixture. Sprinkle chopped rosemary over hazelnuts in food processor and pulse a few times to incorporate it evenly in the ground nuts. Gradually add to butter/sugar/flour mixture, again using a low speed on your mixer. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 2 hours or overnight [the more firm and chilled it becomes, the easier it is to form the cookies].

Bake the cookies. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, about 1 level tablespoon of dough per cookie. Arrange a dozen of them on a sheet of parchment paper that fits your cookie sheet. Slightly flatten balls with the palm of your hand—they will spread more during baking, so don’t squash them. Slide the parchment paper sheet onto cookie sheet and bake until the cookies are lightly golden, about 8 to 12 minutes [10-1/2 minutes proved just right in our oven]. While they’re baking, prepare another dozen on a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Also, slightly warm the jam—see Kitchen Notes for how and why.

When the first batch is done, slide the baked-cookie-laden parchment paper off the cookie sheet and onto a table or countertop. Slide the raw-cookie-dough-laden parchment sheet onto the cookie sheet and pop it into the oven. [Marion found this excellent tip somewhere. It's not only easier than transfering still soft cookies from a hot cookie sheet and safer than trying to flatten cookie dough balls on said hot sheet—if the raw cookies sit on the hot sheet for too long before going into the oven, they tend to spread out too much, literally melting.]

While cookies are still warm, press indentations into the tops. One suggestion was the rounded end of a wooden spoon. Sticking with the thumbprint tradition, I used gingerly touches with various digits so my thumbs didn’t take all the heat. It gave me better control over the shape of the dents [a little full disclosure here, it also gave me one or two temporarily tender fingertips—I can hear professional line cooks groaning and cursing now]. Spoon a half-teaspoon or so of warmed jam into each cookie. Let cookies cool slightly, then transfer to plates.

Kitchen Notes

Choosing, warming jam. Here’s where the store brand you usually rely on [or I do, anyway] is maybe not the best choice. The traditional flavors for these cookies tend to be raspberry and apricot—nice colors and a pleasing tartness. I’ve also heard blackberry mentioned, which would also be delicious, I think. For the raspberry, we chose a seedless preserve; if you have a seeded version, press it through a sieve with the back of a spoon to remove the seeds. We always have apricot jam in the house, but when we were looking for a nicer version, peach preserves made by American Spoon in Petoskey, Michigan, caught our eye. With either apricot or peach preserves, mash bigger chunks of fruit with the tines of a fork in a small bowl.

Go easy on the warming. Most recipes call for adding the preserves before baking the cookies. Adding it after they’re baked creates a shinier, more professional finish [as I learned from the excellent The Art and Soul of Baking, by Sur La Table and Cindy Mushet]. Warming preserves makes them easier to work with, but you have to be careful. The Sur La Table book recommended microwaving some in a bowl briefly. That worked fine for the peach preserves, but the raspberry preserves turned to syrup [happily, they rethickened as they cooled]. Ultimately, I found that setting small bowls of preserves near my oven’s exhaust vent on the stovetop did a great job.

Storing the goods. These cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container. But don’t stack them, store them in a single layer; the jam centers will stick to the undersides of other cookies and won’t be as company-ready pretty.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Donald December 3, 2008 at 4:14 pm

I love these cookies! They were always a feature at my grandmother’s house during the holidays. Never dreamed of making them, but we’ve got this recipe on bookmark.

Donald December 3, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Oh and congrats on the invitation from Bon Appétit. It’s well deserved.

Iron Chef America December 3, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Great Cookies. Hazelnut cookies were my favorite.

Thanks for posting.
Lucy

Carolyn December 3, 2008 at 5:18 pm

I think I remember my mom dipping the formed but unbaked cookies into an egg wash and then rolling them into tiny nut chips.

altadenahiker December 3, 2008 at 5:33 pm

My mom used to make these, sans rosemary. I remember eating around the jam.

susan c December 3, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Congratulations on the Bon Appetit selection.

I love the idea of a cookie with rosemary, especially since it grows like a weed in our yard.

Terry B December 3, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Thanks, Donald! Do give these a try—anything that evokes grandmotherly memories is a good thing.

Carolyn—Yes, from my reading, rolling the cookie dough balls [with or without an egg wash] in crushed nuts is a popular variation on these.

altadenahiker—What a cool, funny memory. I similarly remember my mom putting a butter pat in a little well in my mashed potatoes. I would gobble up the melted butter, then ask for more. I didn’t get it.

susan c—Thanks! We were just talking with a friend who says rosemary grows like hedges in Portland, Oregon. I was immediately envious.

Mike December 3, 2008 at 10:24 pm

First off, congrats on the Bon Appetit thing–that’s awesome!

As for the cookies, well those sound incredibly delicious. I’ve included rosemary in pie crusts before to great success–I could only imagine how these cookies tasted! I love the flavor combos and will have to keep it in mind with the holiday/cookie season getting started

Lauren December 3, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Im really impressed – Bon Appetit! Of course, your blog rocks and you deserve for people to know that – congrats.

I can’t wait to try these in my holiday cookie baskets this year – I think that the rosemary will add a fragrant and refreshing balance. Cheers!

Shauna December 4, 2008 at 1:05 am

Invites from Bon Appetit; comment from the Iron Chef America! You’re way out of my class now, Terry! Seriously, congratulations! Your blog is just wonderful!

If offered, I would try one of these cookies, but generally I am one who cares not for rosemary where it should not be found! Here in Texas, we grow rosemary Bigger than hedges! Or, we could if we wanted to!! Actually, we do. I have 2 huge ones right now. I’m going to run outside and grab some and just go crazy with it! I’m even going to put it where it !! May be in the corner! Or under the fridge!

I had to go to college to learn about thumbprint cookies. Just the name. I’d had the cookie.

nina December 4, 2008 at 5:49 am

This is a very interesting flavor combination you have here! I think I might just like it. Thx for sharing with me!

Terry B December 4, 2008 at 6:40 am

Thanks, Mike! I was surprised at just how well the rosemary worked in these cookies. And if anything, they were better the second day.

Lauren—And as I said on your blog, I’m impressed by your homemade pasta. Not sure I’d take on that task.

Shauna, I’m picturing you running around with great branches of rosemary now. And if anyone could pull it off, it would be you.

nina—Thanks for stopping by!

Sylvia December 4, 2008 at 10:06 am

First of all congratulations, you well deserve it. I have this special gift to see when something or somebody became a hit. Some people said that I had “The eye.” Unfortunately I just can see for the others not for me ;). And certainly you had something special here. One more time, congratulations.
I love rosemary and these cookies sound delicious.

Helmut December 4, 2008 at 10:41 am

It is a cloudy, chill and windy day here in the Black Forest with snow in the mountains and more to come. The invite to Bon Appetit is impressive. You blog deserves this honor.

Carol December 4, 2008 at 2:04 pm

These cookies look so ‘tea time.’ And rosemary!

Congratulations on the Bon Appétit blog showcase. No wonder, you website is super. Besides your great recipes that create a round picture of what one’s about to undertake I also enjoy reading comments from around the world. Thanks Terry!

Terry B December 4, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Awwww, thanks, Sylvia!

Helmut, this sounds like perfect weather for firing up the oven and roasting or baking something.

Carol—Tea time is exactly right. They’re more subtle than the sugar bombs some cookies can be.

Reeni December 5, 2008 at 2:47 am

Rosemary in cookies, who would have thought? I love the idea and bet they’re fantastic!

Susan from Food Blogga December 5, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Woo-hoo! I’m so happy for you, Terry! I can’t wait to see it.

Altadenahiker December 6, 2008 at 12:27 am

I’d walk a mile for your meatloaf. Hope BA includes that one!

Terry B December 6, 2008 at 2:57 am

Reeni—One of the fun things about food for me, whether I cook it or someone else does, is unexpected combinations.

Thanks, Susan!

Big talk, Atladenahiker. I happen to know you run! Obviously I was unclear in my excitement about the Bon Appétit thing. This cookie recipe is what will be featured there. I’ll update my breathless intro now.

willis and gambier December 7, 2008 at 8:09 pm

great idea for rosemary in the cookies – wasnt sure but gave it a go as something different and really enjoyed them

maggie (p&c) December 8, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Wow, congrats on Bon Appetit! What a dream!

ming the merciless December 12, 2008 at 4:58 am

Oooh . . . my friend just made me a batch of thumb print cookies with apricot and strawberry jam. But I don’t think her recipe had nuts in it.

Do you live in NYC? I can easily come over and be your taste tester. :-)

Carmen December 13, 2008 at 11:41 pm

Thanks Terry! I’m going to make these for a holiday cookie party I’m attending tomorrow.

Terry B December 14, 2008 at 12:10 am

willis and gambier—Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks, Maggie!

ming—Nope, we’re in Chicago. But if you’re ever out this way…

Hi, Carmen! I’m hoping we’ll get to see [and by see, I mean devour] some of the leftovers from the party.

Carmen December 15, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Hi back,
I’ll be sure to save you some samples, but they’re going fast! I divided the recipe and made one batch with rosemary and peach/vanilla preserves. For the other batch, I used cinnamon and chocolate frosting instead of rosemary and jam for a more traditional cookie. I gave Marion one of each this morning and she approved. Thanks again for the recipe.

Mary December 16, 2008 at 7:47 am

Found your site through Bon Appetit and added it to my RSS feed. Wow! I just made these cookies and am now very jealous of my sister, who will be getting the whole batch (minus a few ~ahem~ samples) in her Christmas gift. These were fantastic. Thanks!

Nina Interlandi Bell December 22, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Terry,

Just wanted to tell you that I made these cookies last night as holiday presents for my co-workers, and they are OUT OF CONTROL!!! I would have never thought to put rosemary in cookies, but they are so unique and delicious. Some local cherry/peach preserves was the perfect touch in the center. Thanks for the amazing recipe!!

Nina

Terry B December 22, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Carmen—Well, at least Marion got to sample your cookies. Sounds like both were a hit!

Thanks, Mary! Maybe your sister will be nice and share.

Nina—You’re welcome! Where did you find your local preserves? They sound perfect for these cookies.

Elizabeth December 24, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Terry! These cookies were a hit! Thank you for graciously sharing this amazing recipe which I am definitely going to make a tradition! P.s.- I love your blog! Seems that we like to make similar dishes!

Terry B December 24, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Thanks so much, Elizabeth! I have to say I’m pretty pleased with this recipe. Coming up with the idea to add rosemary to the cookie dough—and seeing what the rosemary did to the flavor of the cookies—was a real “Aha!” moment for me.

Hayley January 14, 2009 at 1:20 am

These cookies look amazing! I love love love hazelnut, but I’ve never thought of mixing it with rosemary in something. I’m definitely going to have to try these.

Style Your Food Recipes October 4, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Great recipe. Thanks for sharing.

Tracy October 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Lovely cookies my kids would go nuts on this! Looks so tasty.

junebug May 2, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Mmmmmmmmm cookies…….have you tried these out in the Real Women of Philadelphia contest yet? It’s going on now. You should sub these to the dessert category. Go Paula!!

Edith December 22, 2011 at 4:28 am

Your cookies sound great (I love Rosemary), but it is hard to find hazelnut here in Mexico; have you tried them with any other nut? I’m thinking of using almonds or pecans. Any thoughts?

Terry B December 22, 2011 at 5:35 am

Edith, I think pecans would be nice with this. Let me know how it turns out!

Deb December 23, 2011 at 12:34 am

My husband wants to try this using some homemade Jalepeno jelly, sounds crazy to me, but who knows

Terry B December 23, 2011 at 1:24 am

Deb, I think your husband’s idea sounds delicious! If he tries it, let me know how they turn out.

Edith August 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Finally made them; nothing could have prepared me for such a delicious cookie. I had to change hazelnut for walnut, but it is still so great, I was afraid rosemary would be too strong, but it is not. The best cookie I’ve had in 7 years.

Tess Quadra February 5, 2013 at 9:57 am

Are we starting with already cooked hazelnuts,then baking them after shelling? It’s the only kind we can buy here in Manila.

Terry B February 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm

A belated thanks, Edith! So glad you liked them!

Tess, are the hazelnuts roasted in the shell? If so, just shell and grind them. No need for further roasting, I think.

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