I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my mother is not a baker. Her idea of freshly baked cookies is, to this day, those refrigerated pull-apart dough balls you find amongst the cheese and sour cream in grocery stores. Once a year, though, she would get together with her mother and sisters for “cookie day”. Cookie Day was full of frozen dough, eggshells, maraschino cherries, cookie cutters, cocoa powder, parchment paper, and was, basically, my favorite day of the entire year. Hard to imagine, I know.

And my favorite cookie of them all? Thumbprints. For some reason, though, they were voted off the Cookie Day island and we didn’t make them for years. No one had the recipe; it, somewhat mysteriously, disappeared off the face of my planet. I ended up curbing my homemade thumbprint cookies with the store-bought variety all through high school and up until about 2 years ago, when I started the search for a thumbprint recipe that reminds me of the good ol’ (few) days of rolling dough balls and stepping in flour with my mother. I think I found the recipe, and the only embarrassing thing I can admit this afternoon is that these almond thumbprints not only remind me of the beloved Cookie Day but also remind me of the store-bought thumbprints. Even though I started eating them as a substitution for the “real deal”, those cookies became some of my favorite snacks. It’s kind of an interesting thought, how a food can remind you of a warm, cozy, family activity while simultaneously reminding you of late-night grocery store runs and post break-up cookie binges. Life, memory, nostalgia, all pretty crazy things.

Today, Variety Flour Thursday is all about the oat flour. It’s whole grain, which is awesome for someone who uses a ridiculous amount of all-purpose flour in a week, and fairly versatile. The number of oat flour recipes is enormous and you don’t have to adapt all-purpose flour recipes too much to incorporate it. The oat flour in these thumbprints, along with the almond meal, gives the cookies a hearty crunch while letting be crumbly, like shortbread. You can use any jam you like, I just happened to have raspberry in the fridge.

Almond Oat Flour Thumbprints

(Recipe adapted from the back of Bob’s Redmill Oat Flour bag)

Yields 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup oat flour

1 cup almond meal

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

6 tablespoons light brown sugar (I’ve also used white, granulated sugar with good results)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy. Add almond meal and oat flour, and mix until dough sticks together.

3. Roll dough into 1 ½ teaspoon-size balls and place cookies on baking sheets about two inches apart.

4. Bake cookies for 30 minutes. At 26 or 27 minutes, working quickly, oven open and make thumb-size indents in the center of each cookie, using either your thumb or the butt-end of a wooden spoon. You want to make the indentation as deep as you can without destroying the cookies (for the maximum jam experience). Close the oven and continue baking until cookies are slightly brown around edges.

5. When you take the cookies out of the oven, make another indentation. The cookies will have puffed slightly since making the first indentation. Fill holes with a half-teaspoon of jam, and then let cookies cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.

Keep cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Apricot-glazed Almond Cupcakes

November 20, 2010

Oozing like I imagine a cupcake volcano would, if it were to erupt with jam.

These cupcakes seem a lot of things. They seem kind of floofy. They seem kind of healthy. They seem hard to make. You get the picture, but the picture these kinds of things paint has no semblance whatsoever to the actual process and finished product. It’s true that they are beautiful, but they are super easy to make, super delicious, and probably not all that good for you (despite the almonds). Also, they are completely vegan.

I’ve already written on this blog that my ever-expanding circle of friends brings ever expanding preferences and demands, but I wouldn’t change that for a second! Baking, for me, is an absolute pleasure, and one of the most delightful parts about baking is sharing what you make and how you make it. The thought of someone not being able to enjoy a decadent baked good at any sort of outing at which I’m present makes me more sad than I’d like to admit. When I received Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero at a holiday gift swap last it, it was, literally, like walking through a door into a room filled with lots of other open doors and happy people dancing like the world was the best thing ever. After making a few of the cupcakes from the book, that vision was not only cemented into my mind, but I believe there have been a few actual happy dances surrounding the vegan cupcakes to come from this little book. (On another, more creepy note, I do refer to Isa by her first name because I’m a little in love with her books, her TV show, everything really. Accept my apologies.)

My non-vegan and vegan friends can enjoy the same treats, and still feel like they are being treated. Now that, for me, defines the idea of being perfectly content.

When I made these cupcakes, I happened to have a jar of apricot darjeeling jam from a local farmer’s market lying around. The results were fantastic, however, I know that these cupcakes would be just as excellent with plain apricot. Bonne Maman makes an apricot raspberry jam that would probably be spectacular in this recipe. Now that I’m thinking about jam, perhaps you could go crazy and use any jam you want!

Gorgeous cupcakes, in spite of my elementary food photography skills

Apricot-glazed Almond Cupcakes

(Adapted from from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

1/3 cup canola oil

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup soy yogurt

2/3 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk, if almond milk is not your cup of tea)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup almond meal (You can make your own by whirring some almonds in a food processor for a few seconds.)

1/3 cup apricot preserves

For the glaze:

½ cup apricot preserves

1 tablespoon water

For presentation purposes:

1/3 cup sliced almonds

Method:

For the cupcakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a tin by lining a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

2. In a bowl large enough to contain all the batter, combine oil, sugar, yogurt, almond milk, vanilla, and almond extract.

3. Sift the flour, baking power, and salt together, then sift it into the wet ingredients. Mix until the batter is smooth.

4. Add the almond meal and mix just to combine. I wouldn’t recommend over mixing any sort of cupcake batter.

5. Fill each cupcake liner two-thirds full. Add apricot preserves by the half teaspoonful to the center of each cupcake. (Isa recommends tapping the jam to make it even with the batter, but when I did that the jam sank very far into the cupcake. When I left the jam sitting on top of the batter, it seemed to sink into the cupcake pretty nicely.)

6. Bake for 24 to 26 minutes. You probably shouldn’t employ the toothpick test to these cakes, because the reading would be foiled by the jam center, but you can press lightly on the cupcake and see if it springs back. That’s always hard for me, so I just keep an eye on them and watch the edges.)

7. Transfer to a cooling rack and bring them to room temperature before applying the glaze.

For the glaze:

1. Put the jam and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and keep stirring for a minute. Turn the heat off, but continue to stir for another 30 seconds.

Some assembly required:

1. If you have a pastry brush, use it to apply the glaze to the cupcakes, but a teaspoon sized spoon will work just as well. Add some almonds to the top, any way you choose: sliced almonds in the center, slivered almonds all over, crushed almonds around the edges, choose your own adventure!

2. Let them cool before serving.