Cocoa Thumbprints

Welcome to our week-long Christmas treats extravaganza! Our focus will be on chocolate, but we might sneak something else in as well. We hope you find plenty of inspiration for your holiday baking!

I enjoy a good jam-filled thumbprint cookie. Last year I made lovely little butter thumbprint cookies. This year I was imagining a chocolate cookie base with a berry jam center. And what do I find in the December issue of Food Network Magazine? That’s right, Cocoa Thumbprints!

I tinkered with the recipe a bit to make them gluten-free. I cut-back on the sugar by a couple of Tablespoonfuls. And I used a slightly sweet, four-fruit jam as the center. Oh my, these are tasty!

As usual, if you are not gluten-free, feel free to substitute all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.

(slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine, Dec. 2011)
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1 1/2 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour
scant 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar (for rolling)
1/4 c. granulated sugar (for rolling)
favorite jam (for filling)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, scant 3/4 cup sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum. Add the melted butter and eggs and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the confectioner’s sugar and the granulated sugar in two separate bowls. Roll scant Tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. Roll each in granulated sugar and then in confectioner’s sugar. Place 1-inch apart on baking sheets.

Make a deep indentation with thumb in each cookie. Place 1/2 teaspoon of jam in the indentation. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed and slightly cracked. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheet. Then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.


Market Fresh: Chocolate

Just about everyone (except my husband) loves chocolate. But how many of us think about using chocolate in savory cooking? It’s the truffles, chocolate chip cookies, and decadent chocolate cake that fuel our cravings. Thinking outside the box is good once in awhile and using chocolate in a savory dish exercises creativity and sparks the imagination.

Today I have a lovely Spinach-Pear Salad with Chocolate Dressing and Roasted Cauliflower with Paprika and Cocoa for you to try.

I made this salad with spinach, spring salad mix, and pears. However, as we were eating, we dreamed of substituting strawberries for the pears, adding Gorgonzola and toasted pecans, and later on we even suggested bacon. So, make the salad with whatever ingredients you think sound good to you and enjoy the sweet, tangy bite of this Chocolate Dressing.

(adapted from
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1/2 c. Balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 oz. (2 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate

Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and dissolve over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Leave to cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate or dressing will solidify.

Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes. I’ve made it often in the past, but this was my first time to try it with the cocoa and paprika. To be honest, I didn’t really taste a strong note of either coming through. Perhaps the two added more to the overall color of the dish. In any case, I will definitely be repeating this — I always make a full head of cauliflower and it is never enough.

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1 head of cauliflower
canola oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut cauliflower into florets. Rinse and drain and pat dry. Spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with canola oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and cocoa powder. I probably used about 1 tsp. of cocoa powder for the entire pan, perhaps the same for the paprika. Use your hands to turn florets and make sure they are coated evenly.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until nicely browned and tender.