Baking brings everyone together. Even if you can’t bake – or, more accurately in my case, won’t bake properly, due to a falsely-but-pridefully-held belief that mixing the dry ingredients separately makes no difference – you can enjoy the laborious fruits of those with more respect for
stupid rigid instructions.
If my petulance didn’t already give the game away, I don’t bake much. But I signed up for an office bake-off thinking that it would force me into productivity after Halloween (although gorging on Mars bars and three of the finest chip flavours money can buy mixed together also counts as productivity in my books, because using up leftovers is important, guys) and cheer me up after my favourite holiday was over.
I may prefer my cookies in dough form (both for taste and lack of effort) but I’ve managed to master two solid go-to recipes that happen to be baked in the oven. This is one of them.
I love these cheddar red pepper jelly thumbprints for three reasons:
- The element of surprise. They masquerade easily as ordinary shortbread cookies, so the standard reaction is one of impressed confusion, but I choose to focus on the “impressed” part.
- Not everyone likes sweet stuff. I lean toward the savoury side of the street as well. When fellow savoury-lovers at the bake sale find out there’s a non-chocolate option, they get pretty excited before they even taste the thumbprints. An automatic vote of confidence is always a bonus.
- They look like Peek Freans, whose name is extra fancy, but instead of lemon cream, they’re stuffed with CHEESE!
Like a true petulant faux-baker, I didn’t follow the original recipe I found, from Canadian Living. My spin’s pretty close, though, I just swap the nuts for rosemary.
The dough is super easy to make. It would almost make more sense to call it “cheese-butter” than dough, actually, because that’s mostly what it is.
If you’re here, you’re a cheese nerd, so you know that picking the cheese is half the fun. The recipe calls for sharp cheddar cheese and parmesan.
I used my favourite old cheddar, Balderson, but any cheese strong and petulant enough that it might challenge you to a fight after one-too-many at the pub will do. St-Albert’s Extra Old Cheddar is another great Canadian choice if you’re looking for recommendations. You don’t have to take my word for it – it won its category at this year’s Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.
There’s obviously only one parm to rule the roost if you want to go big: the OG – uh, PDO (little cheese acronym humour for you there, God I’m cool) Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you really want to knock people’s socks off with your faux-baking prowess, that’s the way I’d go. But that sh-t’s expensive. So you can also use “parmesan” petals, like I did, which work just fine.
When I was shopping for my ingredients, the store was licked clean of red pepper jelly. And not because they were out of specialty jellies. They had all kinds I’d never seen or heard of before, but no red pepper. Weird. So I used jalapeño jelly, which is an easy sub in a pinch. You can sub for most jellies with a bit of a kick. I wouldn’t go for a straight-up sweet one, but as someone who enjoys the taste of chocolate and pickles in consecutive bites, I would never dare to judge you.
It would also be cute to alternate red and green jellies for the holidays, if you’re feelin’ jolly. (Yeah, we’re going to just slide on by that chocolate-and-pickles thing.)
I’ve found the thumbprint part to be a bit tricky when I make these, maybe because everything about me is miniature compared to a normal-sized adult. You’re supposed to make the indent before you bake them and fill with jelly after, but I find that the cookies expand while baking and kinda fill out the thumbprint. So I might try it with something a little heartier, like a mini flashlight or a hefty dad’s thumb. If you’re the type to have stamps lying around, that would be fun, too. But if you’re the type to have stamps lying around, you probably already made like, four batches of artisanal baked goods while I was writing this. You don’t need this! Make me these cookies.