Sweet And Sour...

If there is a theme to this year's pre-holiday cookie recipe run-through, it would be the presence of thumbprint cookies. As I wrote when I made the chocolate rendition, I felt last year that the only think missing from my assortment was a thumbprint cookie. Since the chocolate cookies weren't right for this year's Cookie Bonanza, I pressed forward this weekend with another attempt to capture the genre. This time, I opted for a recipe for poppy seed thumbprints from Carol Walter's Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets that I had spotted when I was searching for cookie inspiration last month.

In the author's version, the cookies were filled with raspberry or apricot preserves, but when I saw the poppy seeds, my first thought was lemon.
I always strive to include a citrus-flavored cookie in my holiday lineup, and last year's entry, Ginger & Lemon Cookies, struck me as somewhat mediocre. Knowing I had room for improvement, I decided to adapt Walter's recipe, swapping fruit jam for store-bought lemon curd, and adding lemon zest and lemon extract to the dough. I prepared half of the dough to the recipe's specifications (just for experimentation's sake), and half using my alterations.

Since I'm not a fan of lemon at all, I preferred the cookies made from the original recipe, which I filled with peach preserves. However, the lemon cookies, which I shared with more lemon-friendly palates, were a rollicking success. My coworkers came by to express their appreciation in person instead of sending emails, and Justin proclaimed them some of the best cookies he's ever had (though he might be a tiny bit biased towards the chef.) The lemon version has earned an instant entrance into this year's Bonanza, so look for them to make another appearance in December...

Though I'm only including the recipe for the lemon cookies, this picture features a combination of the lemon and peach versions.

Lemon Poppy Seed Thumbprints
adapted from Carol Walter

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. poppy seeds
1 c. unsalted butter, slightly firm
1/2 c. sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
zest of one lemon
Lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 350.
1. Whisk together flour, salt, and poppy seeds in a large bowl. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium-low speed until smooth. Pour in sugar and mix until just incorporated. Add the egg yolks, extracts, and lemon zest, mixing only until blended. Stir in the flour mixture on low, in two additions, until just combined. Do not overmix.
3. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls and place 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Using the rounded end of a wooden spoon (approximately 1/2 inch), make a deep indentation in the center of each cookie, dipping the spoon in flour between each cookie.
4. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and repress the indentations with the end of the spoon. Fill the centers with the lemon curd, being careful not to overfill.
5. Return cookies to the oven and bake 4-5 minutes more, or until cookies are golden brown around the edges. Cool on wire racks.

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