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Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies

March 20, 2014

Lemon Lime Thumbprint CookiesPin it!

I love Jewish holidays for the food, so the glutton in me is pretty much devastated when I let one slip by without celebrating (i.e., eating) properly… but the jew in me just can’t remember when the holidays are! (My younger sister always seems to know, but I think she’s given up on reminding me.)

Typical typical… I forgot it was Purim this past weekend, and when I should have been making hamantaschen, I accidentally made these instead. Eerily similar though, right? Instead of lemon-lime curd, they just need to be filled with sweet poppyseed goop or fruit jam, and then squeezed into triangular shapes…

The photos are not from this past weekend, but are actually from about a month ago when I first planned to post this recipe, but then other things took precedence—I guess I was too excited about sharing the past few dishes with you (especially the momos!) so I just kept pushing these off until later.

And wouldn’t you know it, I somehow LOST all the notes I’d taken on the recipe!

Making Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies

So this weekend, when I sat down to write up the recipe, I instead ended up baking another 4 dozen thumbprints, just to take extra good notes this time about how I (think I) made them in the first place!

Too bad I missed my chance to make (timely) hamantaschen. And too bad I chose a day when it was over 80 degrees in Santa Barbara… I know, everyone who is still snowboot-deep in winter doesn’t want to hear about it, so I’ll just say that with the oven on, my apartment was uncomfortably hot (<== an understatement) and leave it at that.

Lemon Lime Thumbprint CookiesPin it!

My first time making thumbprints was back when my parents were visiting in December. I think it was all of the “holiday cookie” issues/features of food magazines (and food blogs) that convinced me to finally try my hand at them.

I also saw them as the perfect solution for an over-accumulation of jam—mostly homemade—in our pantry and fridge. (It was actually quite discouraging to find out that you can make 4 dozen thumbprint cookies and still use up only 1/2 cup of jam! I think I need some more jam solutions, short of baking it into phyllo-wrapped brie; we just don’t use it up fast enough on sandwiches and toast.)

Lemon Lime Thumbprint CookiesPin it!

Since I come from a non-thumbprint household, my parents were as new to thumbprints as I was, but far less enthusiastic. Even Paula joined my parents in suggesting that I bake a different kind of cookie, or perhaps no cookie at all. (If you think all three of their reactions sound totally bizarre, then yes, I’m right there with you!)

But then, somehow, the prototype thumbprints, filled with a homemade fig jam and a storebought raspberry one, started to miraculously disappear from the cooling racks. I think about half the cookies had disappeared within a few hours of them coming out of the oven, and believe me, I wasn’t the only one eating them.

Lemon Lime Thumbprint CookiesPin it!

I guess there’s something about thumbprints—you’d think maybe the cookie-to-filling ratio would be too high, but the concentrated dollop of super-sweet jam makes up for that, and somehow you just keep going back for more.

Lemon and lime zest for Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies

I’ve made the cookie-to-filling ratio even better (I think; no bias here…) by keeping the lemon-lime curd very tart, so you can use even more of it. I also reduced the sugar in the (America’s Test Kitchen) cookie dough recipe, so nothing is too overpoweringly sweet.

Making Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies

With their thumbprint cookie recipe, America’s Test Kitchen figured out how to do what I couldn’t accomplish for the life of me: incorporate cream cheese into a solid, sturdy cookie recipe. It turns out ATK does so by using a LOT of flour. But then, a lot of flour goes a long way—this recipe makes plenty of cookies for sharing with friends (or bringing to work, as I keep having Paula do).

Making Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies

I love the subtle flavors of cream cheese and almond extract in the cookies. I also sometimes add citrus zest to the cookie dough (although to be honest, I don’t think it makes that much difference, flavor-wise…).

Making Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies

The ATK thumbprint recipe calls for 1/2 cup of jam, but when I’ve made these with exactly 1/2 cup of citrus curd, it was stressful trying to get every last bit of it out of my plastic (ziploc) piping bags. So I’ve increased the ingredients of my lemon-lime curd recipe so that it yields a few tablespoons over 1/2 cup. That way you can pipe generously (although not so much that it spills out of the cookies…), and you can pipe sloppily, and you’ll still definitely have enough to fill each cookie full of deliciousness. (Not all of us are experts with piping bags… sometimes things backfire. Literally.)

Lemon Lime Thumbprint CookiesPin it!

I suppose this is a high maintenance cookie recipe, as cookie recipes go, since you need to bake each sheet of cookies both before and after you fill them with citrus curd. But if you start out just baking one sheet at a time, then you can get into a nice rhythm of alternating which sheet you’re focusing on, with time to spare for washing dishes (and eating cookies) during the few minutes of downtime in between. (I call nearly all of it “active time” in the recipe below, though, since the downtime breaks are short!)

But trust me when I say that these cookies are worth it—however much I wish I’d baked hamantaschen last weekend instead.

Lemon Lime Thumbprint CookiesPin it!

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies
(Cookie Dough recipe barely adapted from the ATK Family Baking Book.)

(Makes about 4 dozen cookies)

Active time: 1 hour 45 minutes; Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes.

Lemon Lime Curd Ingredients (makes  cup):
~ 2 eggs
~ 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
~ ⅓ cup fresh strained lemon-lime juice (from about 1 lemon + 1 lime; reserve zest for cookie dough)
~ ¼ cup sugar (or ⅓ cup if you plan to eat the curd on its own)

Cookie Dough Ingredients:
~ 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ ½ tsp. baking soda
~ ¼ tsp. baking powder
~ 1½ sticks (12 Tbsp.) butter, softened
~ ½ cup sugar
~ 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
~ 1 egg
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 1 tsp. almond extract
~ zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime

How to make it:

0. Start your butter and cream cheese softening for the cookie dough. To speed things along, you can chop them up into small cubes and leave them out in a warm place—near/on the stove or in the sun.

1. Make the lemon lime curd: Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl and set aside. In a heat-proof bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth and set aside. In a small saucepan, start to melt the butter over medium heat. Once about half of the butter has melted, add the lemon-lime juice and the sugar. Stir gently and allow to come to a simmer. Then—whisking the entire time—slowly pour the mixture into the eggs to temper them. Pour everything back into the saucepan, and continue whisking, over medium-low heat, until it thickens. Then pour through the strainer, using a silicone spatula to gently push the curd through, without pushing any of the bits of solid-cooked egg whites through. (Scrape the citrus curd from the bottom of the strainer, too!)

Ingredients for Lemon Lime Curd to fill Thumbprint Cookies           Homemade Lemon Lime Curd to fill Thumbprint Cookies

2. Make the cookies: Arrange two oven racks near the center of the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, then set aside.

3. In a large bowl, use an electric hand mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy—for at least 2 minutes. Beat in the cream cheese until smooth. Then beat in the egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon and lime zest.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture (in thirds) to the large bowl, beating until well combined after each addition. Either before/after shaping the cookies, scoop the lemon lime curd into the corner of a small ziploc bag (or for a less-messy option, use two bags and scoop half of the curd into each); seal the bag(s) and set aside.

Homemade Lemon Lime Curd to fill Thumbprint Cookies           Making Lemon Lime Thumbprint Cookies

5. Roll the dough into small balls (about 1½ tsp. of dough each) and place them an inch or two apart on the cookie sheet. (About 12 cookies per baking sheet.) Use your thumb to make indentations in the center of each ball of dough. Bake the cookies on the top rack of the oven for 10-11 minutes, then remove and use the back of a round teaspoon-measure to push on and re-shape the thumbprints.

6. Squeeze the curd into the corner of the ziploc bag, then use scissors to snip off a tiny part of the corner. Pipe about ½ tsp. of the curd into the center of each cookie. Return to the oven—on the lower rack—for 10 minutes. Allow cookies to firm up on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Note: These cookies will come out mostly smooth and rounded around the edges. For a rustic “cracked” look, in Step #5, do not indent with your thumb; instead bake the round cookie balls for 6 minutes, then remove and gently indent with the back of a round teaspoon measure. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, then reshape with the teaspoon. (Then fill each cookie with citrus curd, and finish baking for 10 min. as usual.)

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Lemon Lime Thumbprint CookiesPin it!

Related recipe posts:

Raspberry Blood Orange Bars Zesty Lemon Lime Bars Blood Orange Tart Mango Lassi Muffins with Yogurt and Cardamom
Raspberry Blood Orange Bars Zesty Lemon Lime Bars Blood Orange Tart Mango Lassi Muffins with Yogurt and Cardamom
68 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2014 9:05 am

    Wow, these sound refreshing! love the use of both lemon & lime ;)

  2. March 20, 2014 9:50 am

    So far I am a thumbprint-cookie-non-connaisseur, but what I can tell from here is that they a. look and sound super delicious and b. look more like and egg yolk and -white to me than like a thumbprint (I mean the yellow ones, and I mean this as a compliment). I also love how you refer to the non-appreciation of your baking while later counting down the remaining cookies – really funny!!

    • March 20, 2014 10:39 am

      Thanks, Sabine! Like you, I’m also not really a “thumbprint cookie person” (and never once thought of making them until this past holiday cookie season!), but as lemon bars’ biggest fan, I still love this version of thumbprints. (And yep, my parents enjoyed even the version that was filled with storebought jam…)

      I extra love thinking of them as an egg yolk+white! I hadn’t noticed that, but it definitely works! :)

  3. March 20, 2014 10:20 am

    These are totally my kind of cookie – so much citrus-y curd goodness! Yum :)

  4. hoytapeo permalink
    March 20, 2014 11:06 am


  5. March 20, 2014 11:16 am


  6. March 20, 2014 11:33 am

    I’m such a big fan of lemon curd! (even though I hate the word) I never thought to mix lemon and lime. Lemon is pretty much all I can think about these days. Thank goodness for spring!

    • March 27, 2014 9:57 am

      Thanks, Karla! (Um, yep, I actually hate the word “curd,” too, and in fact I’m pretty sure I stayed away from lemon curd for too many years of my life because of not knowing exactly what it was… i.e., the best thing ever!)

      I substitute lime for lemon a LOT in my cooking, even in places where it doesn’t really belong… so it wasn’t such a leap to mix them (I also did that in my zesty lemon lime bars, which are still my favorite dessert—even better than these cookies…).

  7. March 20, 2014 12:01 pm

    Wow, these look delicious. They’re hamentasheny enough! We are a non-thumbprint family too, but we definitely indulge on the hamentaschen. This recipe looks amazing as do your photos. I like how you tell a little bit about your process when you describe how they came about. Enjoy!

  8. marianapdesousa permalink
    March 20, 2014 1:01 pm

    I am a thumbprint enthusiast. And I love how you put so much thought into this recipe.

  9. March 20, 2014 1:29 pm

    Wow! These look fantastic. Can we have some please? ;)

  10. March 20, 2014 1:32 pm

    These are beautiful, love the citrusy twist.

  11. March 20, 2014 1:52 pm

    This recipe looks fantastic.

    Re: Jam: If you’re breakfast eaters, do breakfast parfaits with yoghurt and jam. Either just yoghurt topped with about 2 Tbsp of jam, or 1/4c oats soaked in 1/3c water, topped with a couple tablespoons each of yoghurt and jam, and maybe some seeds or fruit of some sort. My three-person household can go through multiple 8oz jars of jam a week if we’re eating this sort of breakfast. Pleasingly, we tend to start wanting it in spring/early summer…just as I’m starting to think “ooh, hey, I should really make some jam.” So we eat the old stuff just in time to make new.

    • March 27, 2014 10:04 am

      I love this idea! And thank you for taking my request for jam-using-up tips seriously. :) We are breakfast eaters, but very protein-y breakfast eaters (i.e., mostly eggs, in many many forms). We only rarely have hot oatmeal, but we both love yogurt (on savory dishes, in smoothies, etc.), and jam. I’ve been thinking about getting into making cold overnight oats for weekday breakfasts (instead of frittatas or fried eggs) as the weather gets warmer… I will definitely take your advice and remember to add a little jam to them, along with fresh fruit, when I do!

  12. March 20, 2014 5:17 pm

    I’ll be honest, I really love citrus curd and can pretty much eat it by the spoonful, but if I have to use a curd-to-mouth delivery system other than a spoon, it might as well be cookie!

    • March 27, 2014 10:05 am

      Hahaha, I love it. I am the same way with citrus curd. Man, I really should have titled this post/recipe “Lemon Lime Curd in a Cream Cheese Cookie Curd-to-Mouth Delivery System.” Such a missed opportunity!

  13. March 20, 2014 7:48 pm

    They are so adorable, and I assume that they were fantastic!

  14. March 20, 2014 9:09 pm

    I love tart anything, and I love that you used both lemon and lime! These are my idea of bliss. I rarely make thumbprints, but you’ve inspired me to revisit an idea I’d been working on…

  15. March 21, 2014 2:15 am

    Theses look adorable as well as delicious! I’m not surprised they disappeared as the day progressed!!

    • March 27, 2014 10:28 am

      Thanks! And yep, the ones that disappeared while my parents were around just had storebought jam in them… dare I say it, these are even better! :)

  16. March 21, 2014 3:50 am

    Aww these are adorable, delicious looking thumbprint cookies :D
    I love the lemon and lime variations!

    Choc Chip Uru

  17. March 21, 2014 4:56 am

    Lemon is my absolute favourite ingredient in bakes and these pretty finger food style biscuits look utterly moorish! X

  18. March 21, 2014 5:14 am

    Oh my! As a self-proclaimed citrus freak I am super excited to try these!

  19. March 21, 2014 6:45 am

    Thumbprint cookies are so much fun to make! I agree that they are definitely a little high maintenance as far as cookies go. I made some last December and they were easily my favorites :)

    • March 27, 2014 10:34 am

      Wow, I think of you as something of a cookie expert/connoisseur. What kind of thumbprints did you make that were your favorites? Now I want to try those! :)

  20. March 21, 2014 8:27 am

    I am making these… my husband loves a butter cookie and anything lemon or lime! :-) Also, be warned that i am now following your blog via email, as well. Yes, I love the Jewish holidays… and my hamantaschen have also turned into other types of cookies! :-)

  21. March 21, 2014 10:50 am

    These look so perfect, and the idea of lemon/lime curd is a nice change from red fruit jam.

    • March 27, 2014 10:40 am

      Thanks! Yes, the America’s Test Kitchen recipe called for raspberry jam, which I love, and among jams, it’s probably the kind I would choose anyway, but I love tart & tangy citrusy curds even better.

  22. March 21, 2014 3:02 pm

    These lemon lime thumbprint cookies were just the sweet treat I was looking for. I can’t wait to try them this weekend. Thanks for sharing!

  23. March 21, 2014 3:02 pm

    wow!! these look so refreshing and perfect for summers i am sure they taste super yum and i love lemons.

  24. MyKabulKitchen permalink
    March 21, 2014 9:03 pm

    I had to smile when I read your post as I always love to celebrate any Holiday that comes around, we have many Jewish neighbors and I personally love their many holidays and like you its seriously for gluttonous reasons…just like the reason I am anticipating Easter so I can simply raid the local Italian bakeries. These look delicious, the lemon is perfect for spring time, thanks for sharing :-)

    • March 27, 2014 11:18 am

      Thanks for commenting! Your comment made *me* smile, because I also enjoy celebrating ALL holidays for gluttonous reasons. Growing up, we celebrated many things—Jewish and Christian holidays and even the Chinese moon festival and new year—and I always most looked forward to the food and treats that each holiday brought with it! :)

  25. March 23, 2014 7:06 am

    Made 52 this morning… 10 are already GONE! SOOOO good!

    • March 27, 2014 11:19 am

      Awesome!!! :)

      And I assume—since it’s taken me so long to respond to this week’s comments—that all 52 are gone by now. (Mine are long gone, too…) Guess we’ll just have to make more…

      • March 27, 2014 12:08 pm

        Yep… my husband had a business trip with 4 colleagues and I gave him a bag to share on the plane. LOL! We honestly thought we would freeze some. NOT! :-)

      • March 27, 2014 12:12 pm

        Haha, that’s great! The same thing happened to us when I made these again just to test the recipe one more time for the blog—I even *weighed* the dough so that I could save exactly half in the freezer (since we definitely didn’t *need* 4 dozen cookies in the house…), but then I just baked them all anyway and wouldn’t you know it, they all got promptly eaten.

  26. afracooking permalink
    March 24, 2014 12:46 pm

    hihi loved reading about your trials and tribulation (sorry ;-> ). These cookies look fabulous!!

    • March 27, 2014 11:31 am

      Ahaha, don’t worry; it’s okay. :) To be honest, when I started this blog, I intended to share even more of my trials and tribulations, including photos of cooking fails, etc., but then I somehow started to have the feeling that everything needed to be 100% useful all the time if I wanted people to turn to my blog as a resource. (Not that learning about other people’s cooking fails can’t be useful… but usually it’s mostly just entertaining.) Anyway, having to bake these cookies yet another time was definitely NOT the worst thing to ever happen in my kitchen. :)

  27. March 25, 2014 5:13 am

    don’t feel too bad: for someone a wee bit obsessed with jewish food and the culture which surrounds it, i blew past Purim too this year. :( upsetting, for sure, b/c i love hamantaschen, but i also love these thumbprints! really, tiny thumbprint cookies with jam or curd are probably my most favorite cookie. they’re always so pretty, and elegant, and delicious…all that lemon-lime curd in there. YUM.

    • March 27, 2014 11:35 am

      Thanks, Shannon! I honestly hadn’t thought of thumbprints as “elegant” before! Delicious, yes. Pretty, maybe. Gimmicky, maybe? But elegant?! I like it. :) The homemade lemon-lime curd definitely fancies them up a bit compared to using storebought jam…

      And yeah, I’ll just have to wait on the hamantaschen until next year. (Not only did my little sister used to remind me when Purim was coming up, she also used to SEND ME some of her hamantaschen through the mail! I was just about to complain that she doesn’t do that anymore, but then I realized how ungrateful that would sound, since it’s pretty clear that I have one of the best little sisters ever…)

  28. March 26, 2014 1:51 pm

    I am a sucker for anything with lime!!

  29. March 26, 2014 2:54 pm

    These are so cute – such lovely little bite-sized morsels.

  30. Julienne permalink
    April 6, 2014 6:50 am

    Thumbprint cookies are the best! I was so excited to see lemon curd used. I’ll be whipping up a batch today!

  31. April 11, 2014 7:34 am

    these look delicious! this purim i made homemade hamataschen for the first time, which was so much fun! and way better than store bought :).


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