thumbprintRecipes are often handed down through the generations, and this is something that I really love about baking. Think of your favorite recipe, and think about where it may have come from – whether across the world or across the street – and how it connects you to the person who first shared it with you. That’s a pretty amazing thing, no?

I got this recipe from my dear friend Tara, who got it from her grandmother-in-law Midge. I can just imagine Midge in her kitchen, making these for her family, maybe tinting the icing a special color for a birthday or holiday. My own grandmother gave me hundreds of recipes over the years, some of which originated in her childhood home in Budapest, and others that she pioneered – or perfected – in the kitchen of the home where she raised my dad. I think about Midge and Zella and all the women like them, who took great pleasure in chopping up walnuts or whisking up drizzle icing, and I’m grateful to be a part of their legacy.

My only adjustment to Midge’s recipe is another 1/4 cup walnuts for the cookies, and 1/2 cup less powdered sugar for the icing. I coated my cookies very generously with walnuts and needed a bit more than her original 3/4 cup, and because my batch yielded 16 cookies, I realized that 1 full cup of powdered sugar would be too much.


For the cookies

  • 8 tablespoons margarine
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, yolk separated from white (keep the white cold until ready to use)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

For the icing

  • 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • About 1 tablespoon milk


In a mixing bowl, cream together margarine, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla.

Blend salt into sifted flour and add to creamed mixture until well-combined.

Chill dough for about 1 hour, until firm and easy to handle. Dough will still be slightly sticky after 1 hour but that’s okay.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly beat the egg white.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop out dough and roll into balls. Dip each ball into egg white, then walnuts.

Place on a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 5 minutes, then quickly press a thumbprint in the center of each using the back of a half teaspoon from your measuring spoons to create the thumbprint. I chose not to use my actual thumb because, naturally, the cookies are very hot! Continue baking another 8 minutes.

Remove from oven; press half teaspoon in each indentation again if necessary to reinforce your thumbprint.

Once cookies are cool, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, and about 1/2 teaspoon of milk. Add additional milk slowly to reach your desired consistency; you want it to be a thick drizzle so it will set easily.

Allow icing to set and store cookies in an airtight container.


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