When the going gets tough, bake cookies

  • Greenfield Recorder reporter Mary Byrne rolls dough to make thumbnail cookies in her Shutesbury home on Saturday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Greenfield Recorder reporter Mary Byrne dips dough into sugar to make thumbnail cookies in her Shutesbury home on Saturday. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Greenfield Recorder reporter Mary Byrne with her finished thumbnail cookies in her Shutesbury home. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Greenfield Recorder reporter Mary Byrne with her finished thumbnail cookies in her Shutesbury home. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

  • Above, Greenfield Recorder reporter Mary Byrne's finished thumbnail cookies. At right, Byrne makes the cookies. Staff Photo/Shelby Ashline

Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2020 6:00:32 AM

I discovered baking cookies as a stress reducer about a year ago during a brief obsession I had with perfecting my grandmother’s molasses cookies. She had recently passed away, and cookies were one of the things I had always associated with her. Any time we visited my grandparent’s house, I knew I would find a batch of them in the brown cookie jar on the kitchen counter. 

It wasn’t until recently that I learned my grandmother only baked those particular cookies — not any other kind — because she didn’t like the taste enough to snack on them afterward.

Unlike my grandmother, I do eat the cookies I bake.

But like my grandmother, baking cookies has never really been about the final product. 

Through trial and error of baking her cookies, I quickly found I enjoyed the process more — gathering the ingredients, measuring them out and baking them for just the right length of time. The smell of the kitchen afterward certainly didn’t hurt.

During an exceptionally stressful time during school last year, baking cookies was a chance for me to slow down and make something I could share with my roommates. It was 90 minutes of the day I could turn on BBC radio and forget about my school work for a while.

If there was ever another time in my life for some stress-induced baking, now is it. Between personal stresses, the stress of COVID-19 and the daily news, I realized recently I was once again craving baking.

I know I’m not the only one with that craving — one look at social media tells me I’m friends with a lot of new bread bakers. 

But there was a problem: while I wanted to bake, I didn’t want to make a special trip to the store. Mask or not, it didn’t seem like an ‘essential’ task. What’s more, some of the ingredients necessary in cookies haven’t exactly been the easiest to come by lately, or they have limits on how many you can purchase in some stores. The last time I picked up a carton of eggs, for instance, there was a three-carton limit per person. 

So I resolved to work with the ingredients I already had: flour, sugar, eggs, butter. The basics. 

I looked up “simple cookie recipes” and gleamed through the results to find ones that lacked items I knew weren’t in the house such as baking soda (which I quickly learned was a common ingredient in most). I also didn’t have brown sugar, which knocked chocolate chip cookies off the list.

That was when I recalled a type of cookie I’d made last year. They were called white chocolate thumbprints and they were basically sugar cookies with raspberry jam dolloped onto them. They were a bit complex to make but I searched “thumbprint cookie” and sure enough, a recipe came up with just five ingredients — six if you count the jam. 

Thumbprint Cookies

2 sticks of butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup flour


Set the oven for 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The recipe I followed called for butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract, flour and jam. I used raspberry jam for the filling because that’s what I had in the house. I mixed the butter and the sugar with a mixer before adding the two egg yolks and the vanilla extract. When everything was blended, I started to mix in the flour, slowly. 

The next step was to form the dough into small balls and roll them in sugar, placing them on the tray about two inches apart. Once on the tray, I used my thumb to press small indentations in them that I would then fill with a teaspoon of jam. In the oven they went for 12 minutes.

Twelve minutes later, I took them out, only to put them right back in for another two or three minutes, unsure if they’d cooked all the way through — that’s where I went wrong. After 14 to 15 minutes in the oven, they were a little overcooked, at least for my own taste. 

All things considered, they were still pretty delicious — and they tasted even better with a hot beverage and a good book. 

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