Beat butter, granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon almond extract with a handheld mixer or a stand mixer until well combined.
Add flour and salt. Mix on low speed until large, soft crumbs form (this may take a while, keep mixing until the sandy micture turns into cookie dough).
Roll dough into 1 inch balls and set 2 inches apart on lined cookie sheets. Make an indent in the center of each ball (you can use your finger, but I like using a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon or the back of a wooden cooking spoon for a perfect look). Fill each indent with jam.
Chill the shaped cookies for 2-4 hours in the fridge, or freeze for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the cookies (on tray at a time) for 13-16 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges and just set. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Butter: Make sure to use butter that's cold from the fridge and NOT softened or melted butter! Your recipe will not work out otherwise. Buttery spread or margarine cannot be substituted here.Flour: I always use all-purpose flour here. If you try this with a gluten free blend, please let me know how it works out for you! I love to make my recipes accessible to many people, and would love to include your experience here in the recipe.Sugar: Use granulated sugar for best results. Brown sugar shouldn't be substituted here as it will alter the color of the cookie.Jam: I really prefer seedless for thumbprint cookies, and raspberry is by far my favorite. Feel free to experiment here! Lemon curd is very delicious, too.Note: Classic shortbread doesn't have eggs or baking powder in it, in case you're wondering if they are missing in the recipe.
Shaping the perfect thumbprint cookies: After many years of thumbprint cookie experience, I want to share my best tips for the picture perfect cookies with you:
Shape the cookies BEFORE chilling the dough - making the holes for the jam is almost impossible to do neatly once the dough is chilled.
Make the indent/hole for the jam with a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon. The cookies will look much more even and neat!
Do not skip chilling the shaped cookies. They will spread too much in the oven if you don't chill them.
Fill them right to the edge with jam, or even slightly more, as the jam will reduce a little during baking.
Bake just until they're starting to get crisp and lightly browned around the bottom edges, otherwise they will turn out too dark and lose their pretty looks.
If you like, you can roll the cookie dough balls in granulated sugar before making the indent. You can also dust them with powdered sugar once they are baked and cooled.
To freeze the raw cookie dough: You can freeze the shaped cookie dough for up to 3 months.Freeze in a single layer on lined baking sheets for 1-2 hours or until solid, then place in freezer bags and label with the name and use-by date before freezing.To bake, remove as many cookies as you want from the freezer bag and set them on a lined baking sheet. Fill with jam, then let them sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Bake as directed in the recipe, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time.I do not recommend freezing the baked cookies, as the jam tends to turn a little weird after freezing/thawing.
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