The inspiration for these delicious, marzipan-like cookies comes from a dessert I first made in high school. As part of an assignment for Latin class, I had to prepare a dish from an ancient Roman cookbook and bring it to a class potluck. I chose to make roasted dates stuffed with almonds and drizzled with honey. Almonds and dates pair perfectly together. I’ve made the ancient Roman dessert a handful of times in recent years, and decided to experiment with a modern cookie recipe that incorporates similar flavors.
My first thought was to add almonds and dates to biscotti, a cookie with roots in ancient Rome. Instead, I ended up putting my own spin on thumbprint cookies, which originate in Sweden. Using basic ingredient proportions from a recipe I found online, I flavored the dough with almond extract, rolled the cookies in ground almonds, and replaced the traditional jam filling with pureed dates.
Almond Date Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Allrecipes
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk (set aside egg whites for coating)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional salt for sprinkling
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole almonds, finely ground
1/3 cup Medjool dates, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon water
Prepare the dough: Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg yolk and almond extract until smooth. Stir in salt and flour until just incorporated.
Prepare the filling: Place dates, vanilla, and water in a food processor bowl. Process until coarsely ground. Remove from food processor, and mash with a fork until smooth. Set aside, and clean food processor bowl.
Shape and coat the cookies: Grind almonds in food processor, and place on a plate or in a bowl. Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough, and roll into balls. Coat with egg whites and then roll in almonds. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake and fill: Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, create indentations in each cookie using your thumb. Fill each indentation with approximately 1/2 teaspoon date mixture. Sprinkle a little salt and any leftover ground almonds on top of the cookies. Bake for another 10 minutes. Let cool, and store in an airtight container.
Yields approximately 12 cookies