Thumbprint Cookies (Vegan)

Thumbprint cookies might be my perfect Christmas cookie (and a fair number have been consumed with no holiday excuse). Tasha Tudor’s thumbprints used to be my favorite, made with white flour, lots of butter, and dollops of sugary strawberry jam.

But recently I found this recipe made with barley flour, which adds to the nuttiness, and oil rather than butter. I printed it, used it, but didn’t attribute my paper copy. Wandering websites looking for the exact recipe, I finally found Blythe Danner’s (she makes them often for her grandchildren). Thank you Blythe Danner!

These are a one-bowl cookie (a big bowl, though I have cut the recipe in half very successfully): combine all the ingredients: four cups of barley flour, three cups of raw whole almonds (crush in a food processor in about 10 two-second pulses), one teaspoon fine salt, one teaspoon ground cinnamon, one cup of canola oil, and one cup of real Vermont maple syrup.

Stir. Form into balls (about tablespoon size) and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Make the signature indents with a digit and fill with a spoonful of jam.

They are so good these cookies, and a perfect way to use up any bits of jam in the fridge (or the really beautiful blueberry jam made with honey by my friend who lives down the bluff). The jam with honey gets a little sticky and chewy, but it sets off the nutty dough just perfectly. (Some blogs I read in my tracing-the-recipe search suggested using ganache, if you like a chocolate-filled thumbprint.)

It takes about 20 minutes for the cookies to be evenly browned. Cool. Eat. Enjoy.

Let holiday cooking begin!

Joanna plate with thumbprint cookie-1

Two Lights Out

Of the people populating my personal pantheon of creative luminaries, some I know and some I don’t. I’ve written about a lot of them in “Her spirits rose…” – sometimes often. This fall, inside a week, while September changed to October, two of the lights blinked out.

A creative genius in the world of technology – Steve Jobs of course – and a creative spirit in art and design (but really in all of life) – Joanna Isles. They shared perfectionism and joy I think – their former led to my latter. Their work issued from imagination and skill and dedication. They loved their families and they made the world a better place.

Their deaths have left me thinking, whenever faced with some annoyance or setback, what would Joanna do, what would Steve Jobs do? How glad either would be to be alive to face an annoyance or setback.

Such brave endings for both, time for them to face, oh so realistically, what lay ahead, and to say farewell, leave instructions for carrying out their work to the left-behinds. Of course we all should be thinking that way all the time, but we seem to be designed in ways that make that difficult. Easier to deny, avoid. Dream on.

But lately I’ve been trying not to, and trying even harder to notice the miracle of the wind in the trees, a glass of wine with friends, sunshine in my kitchen. What a gift is this life. I also think to try even harder to apply excellence – to work hard, to reach for all the creative moments and honor those too-short lives.

Joanna’s husband sent me the program for her memorial service (titled “A Celebration of the Creative Life of Joanna Isles Freeman”). It’s colorful with her whimsical illustrations and lettering and the words to “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a song performed at the service. The words echo in my head all over my house – her books, little pieces of Joanna painted pottery, baubles on a glass-covered string of lights – a bejeweled heart that hangs on my workroom door – and a box full of treasured letters tracing her life and our friendship for more than 20 years. Someday I will pack them up for her girls – the creative spirits she left behind.

I’m grateful Joanna Isles and Steve Jobs lived and so very, very sorry they are gone.

(I first wrote about Joanna here.)