Monday, August 12, 2013

Filipino Coconut Jam Thumbprint Cookies

I wholeheartedly love thumbprint cookies.  I remember making peanut butter and jelly versions in kindergarten and my job along the munchkin assembly line was to make the thumbprint indentation. :)  They're a lot of fun to make and look so darn cute too.  I also love how you can basically fill them with anything you desire. My personal favorite filling has always been guava jam, but I've just discovered that Filipino coconut jam (or 'matamis na bao' in Tagalog) brings thumbprint cookies to a whole new level.  Wow. Creamy, rich, sweet, decadent, and smooth like caramel.  It'll be hard to just eat one.

Filipino coconut jam differs from the versions in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore in that it contains no eggs and is naturally vegan.  Similar to dulce de leche, it's made by simmering together coconut milk and brown sugar until the mixture thickens.  To make coconut jam from scratch, there's a recipe posted on the beautiful Jun-blog.  There are only two ingredients, but coconut jam is by no means a low fat food!

I've tasted several varieties such as Lily's or Philippine Brand that can be found in Asian grocery stores, but Quezon's Coconut Jam is the best that I've had so far.  I was lucky enough to find some at the Filipino Pistahan Festival in San Francisco this past weekend.  (Yes, I stockpiled!) And naturally, my first thought was to use it in some sort of baked good. :)

For the cookie part, I used the 'Life-Changing Vegan Thumbprints' recipe posted on The Kitchn, but added some vanilla extract and also divided the recipe in half. I love how this recipe doesn't use any butter substitute or refined sugar. :)

Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup whole almonds (I used Trader Joe's almond meal)
2 cups quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut jam (store-bought or homemade)

Optional:  Toppings such as chopped nuts, sesame seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, or dehydrated sprouted quinoa (as pictured)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. If you don't have almond meal, grind whole almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Next grind the oats in the food processor until finely ground. 
  4. Add the ground oats, flour, and salt to the ground almonds and whisk together well.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
  7. Using your hands, roll pieces of dough into teaspoon sized balls and place them on the baking sheet. 
  8. Make an indentation in the center of each ball (the end of a wooden spoon is great for this) and fill each indentation with coconut jam.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.
  10. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.  After the cookies have cooled, sprinkle with toppings if using.

Coconut jam is so delicious on toast, biscuits, rolls, or just by itself.  And now I can enjoy it in cookies.  Homemade coconut jam doesn't seem that difficult to make (famous last words!), but I'm all for kitchen shortcuts. So, if you come across coconut jam, snatch up a jar or two.  Just like The Kitchn's cookie recipe used here, coconut jam is absolutely life-changing. :)