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Date-Almond Thumbprint Cookies

November 25, 2013

Date Thumbprint Almond Cookies (3)NOVEMBER 24th, 2013 — The finale to my first thank-you dinner after wrapping production on my thesis film, Daily Bread.

I had a whole tub of pitted dates and bag of dry-roasted and salted almonds leftover from a rehearsal I had held for half of my cast who was too polite to finish the snacks, so I thought I’d better use them together in some form or another. I’m a huge fan of the almond-date combination. I’ve definitely seen this combination not only in Persian ice cream shops, but also in fancy juice-smoothie joints.

So what did you do?
I prepared the dough ahead of time.
The first thing I did was pour 3/4 cups of dry-roasted and salted almonds in a ziploc bag and crushed them until they were in pretty small chunks. I don’t have a rolling pin or a mallet in my current apartment, so I used a wine bottle.
I then kneaded together in a bowl:

  • 3/4 cup dry-roasted almonds, ground
  • 1.25 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 heaping tbsp Fage 0% Greek yogurt

The Greek yogurt was supposed to replace some of the butter. I never like using all the butter a recipe calls for, so I used this to moisten the dough, and it was a great idea, because it provides a tangy flavor that prevents your cookies from becoming cloyingly sweet.
Tip: If the dough is still too dry, which was the case for me, add some splashes of milk.

For the date paste filling, I heated the following in a small saucepan:

  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped into small chunks
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Stir frequently for 4-6 minutes, until the dates dissolve and become a nice thick paste. Let the mixture chill in the fridge.

Date Thumbprint Almond Cookies (2)Now, to confess, these were intended to be rugelach, to add a Jewish dish to my Israeli-Palestinian-themed meal. However, since I didn’t have enough butter in the recipe, as well as any cream cheese that a rugelach recipe usually calls for, I wasn’t really able to get the dough moist and pliable enough to roll out and make croissant shapes without it crumbling apart. Thumbprint cookies are way faster and easier to make. All that involves is rolling out little balls, pressing your thumb in the middle to make a little a crater, and spooning a dab of the date paste in the center.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Result? Ridiculously good, especially if you’re a fan of almonds! It has a deep earthy taste profile from the almonds, instead of the basic butter-sugar taste of regular shortbread. I’m totally planning on making more batches of these for the holidays for everyone else.

Lessons learned?
I had to experiment with baking times since I pulled from various recipes. 20-25 minutes is definitely way too long, haha. Someone should be on firewatch.

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