For Salon resident pastry chef Meghan McGarry, the holidays have long been synonymous with one thing: cookies. When the Buttercream Blondie owner reflects upon her earliest memories of Christmas, she fondly recalls spending hours in the kitchen with her Nan baking confetti cookies with green and red sprinkles. Those were one of the classic bakery treats that the dynamic duo would pack neatly into tins to gift to family and friends.
“The best holiday gifts I’ve ever received are cookies,” McGarry told Salon from her Buttercream Blondie headquarters in Nashville. “There’s nothing that shows someone you care about them more than something that’s baked with love.”
After becoming a member of the over 21 club, McGarry began to reimagine the classic cookies and desserts from her childhood with a spirited twist. Now, she’s busy preparing to launch nationwide shipping of her beloved boozy bakes. McGarry recently took a break from the road to launch to share some of the recipes from her very own kitchen with Salon readers as part of a virtual holiday bake-off.
All of this comes on the heels of her successful fall baking series for Salon Food, which included retro apple and pumpkin staples. Over the next four weeks, McGarry will help Salon readers get in the holiday spirit with her signature dessert makeovers. And if there’s one thing everyone needs in there life right now is a way to keep baking through it.
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One cookie that’s truly synonymous with the holidays is the thumbprint cookie, which you may have left out for Santa as a kid. McGarry’s version tastes like nostalgia: Her raspberry almond thumbprint is a shortbread cookie, so it’s incredibly buttery and tender at the same time. It has a hint of almond extract in the cookie, which brightens the flavor.
But what’s sure to leave Santa extra happy is the icing on the cake — or, in this case, cookie. McGarry has elevated this iconic cookie with the addition of her timeless amaretto icing, which enhances the almond notes in the cookie. The addition of the beautiful glaze across the pop of seasonal red from the jam almost makes these cookies too beautiful to eat — almost.
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There are two pro-tips you’ll want to jot down before you turn on the oven. First, make sure your cookie dough is cold when it hits the oven. Chilling it first will ensure that your cookies maintain their traditional, round shape. And speaking of shape — thumbprint cookies are traditionally formed by using your thumb to create a circular indentation, or pocket, to hold jam. For a more polished look, McGarry recommends using the handle of a wooden spoon instead instead of your fingers.
As always, McGarry’s recipes are easily adaptable to the tastes of your audience. If you’re baking for a fan of apricot jam, use that instead. Any flavor works — the key is to use seedless jam so you don’t detract from the buttery smooth texture of the cookie. If you don’t have amaretto on hand, Chambord is another great option, because it will amplify the raspberry flavor in the jam.
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We’re baking at home now more than ever, so what better time to put your newfound culinary skills to use than by winning this year’s cookie swap. Stay tuned for more ways to continue baking spirits bright throughout the holidays at Salon Food.
Recipe: Raspberry Almond Thumbprints
Yield: 31 cookies
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- raspberry jam for filling
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add almond and vanilla extracts and continue to mix.
- Add flour and salt, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Click here to access the remainder of Meghan McGarry’s raspberry almond thumbprints. And don’t forget to follow @ButtercreamBlondie on Instagram for more ways to bake through the holidays.