This post is sponsored by Hero Fruit Spread who also provided the various fruit spreads used in this recipe. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.
Keep traditions close to your heart, but break the stereotypes and assumptions that surround them.
One of my favorite holiday traditions was wrought from rather unconventional roots. Fifteen years ago, my mom, stepdad, dad, and stepmom courageously shattered the stereotype of a "broken family" with an unusual Christmas Eve tradition. The tradition involved gathering themselves and all four kids together to celebrate the holiday as one big, happy, (un)broken family. The gesture proved that not only could they tolerate one another, they could create loving, peaceful memories together. It took nearly a decade to get to that point but they've stayed there ever since. At first, they did it for us (the kids), but it's a mutual love and respect that's carried on the tradition for so many years.
When I tell people that my parents, step parents, siblings, and our significant others celebrate Christmas Eve together, their first response (confusion) is quickly followed by an offering of sympathy. Eek, that's gotta be uncomfortable. Is that court mandated? They appear even more confused when I go on to say that it's my favorite day of the year and that it was my parents' idea.
Based on the above, one might assume that my parents' divorce was amicable. Trust me, it wasn't. There were years of fighting, tears, confusion, and hurt, and there were many birthday candles blown out with the same wish in mind: Please, bring my parents back together or at least make them like each other as friends. Looking back, though, their divorce was one of the greatest things to happen to our family.
At my sister's wedding, my dad and stepmom (parents of the bride) opted not to give a toast and asked my stepdad to give one instead. Yes, you read that right. As Mike stood in front of 200+ people, one of the first things he said was, "It's crazy to think that if Celeste and Dave hadn't divorced, none of us would be sitting here sharing this experience together today and Morgan wouldn't even exist." The common thread throughout his speech was that unexpected miracles can and do happen—in our families and in our lives—when we allow love to lead the way.
But back to that Christmas Eve tradition…
Part of the tradition is that on the eve of Christmas Eve or “Christmas Eve Eve”, my brothers, Brad and David, my sister, Morgan, and I gather together at my mom and stepdad’s house for some quality sibling hang time.
Over the years, we even developed our own, sibling-founded traditions. Many of them have changed or fallen away as we've grown older but my favorite one remains. Holiday baking!
On our list of must-bake holiday goodies? Thumbprint cookies, of course. And I figured it was about time to come up with a vegan and gluten-free version that tastes every bit as delightful as the original.
These vegan thumbprint cookies have a sweet and buttery taste that rivals their predecessors', proving yet again that good things happen when we lovingly reshape traditions.
They require just 9 ingredients (salt included), and the dough is mixer-free. You’ll only need a bowl, a spoon, and a willing arm to stir.
To make these beauties, you’ll start by whisking together some oat flour, coconut flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, and sea salt. Then, add in some melted coconut oil, pure maple syrup, and vanilla. Give it all a good stir and let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
The rest period allows the oat and coconut flours time to absorb the liquids, yielding a spongy, shapeable dough. You might be thinking: Why don’t you just use more flour? Great question. That was originally my approach when baking with oat flour, but that method typically results in dry, crumbly, inedible baked goods. I discovered the “resting” trick from an episode of America’s Test Kitchen in which they made oat muffins and explained the importance of allowing oat flour time to absorb liquids before baking.
While the dough rests, you’ll whip up the (optional) nut and cinnamon coating. Add raw almonds, walnuts, or pecans (or a combination of the three) to a food processor and process until the nuts are finely crushed. Then, transfer to a shallow bowl and whisk in a bit of ground cinnamon.
Then, scoop a bit of Hero Fruit Spread into a small bowl. Hero’s fruit spreads have a higher fruit content than most and they’re free from high-fructose corn syrup as well as artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Feel free to use whichever flavor of fruit spread you’d like, or if you’re feeling indecisive like I was, you can use a variety of flavors. I used Raspberry, Strawberry, Red Currant, and Black Currant. (Note: Hero can be found in the jam aisle of most leading grocery stores—e.g., Kroger, Jewel-Osco, Wegman’s, Raley’s, Ralph’s, etc.)
Next step? Create an assembly line. Line up the cookie dough, crushed nut mixture (if using), a lined baking pan, and Hero Fruit Spread...
Scoop out about one tablespoon of the cookie dough and roll into a ball. Then, roll the ball in the nut mixture (if using) and place it on the lined cookie sheet. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all of the cookie dough.
Next, use the back of a ½ teaspoon measure to create an indentation in the top of each ball of dough and fill each with a heaping ½-teaspoon of fruit spread.
Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, or until they’re light golden brown and feel set to the touch.
Let them cool completely on the baking sheet before attempting to move or enjoy. They’re quite delicate at first but will firm and crisp as they cool.
You can store the cookies at room temperature for up to four days, refrigerate for up to one week, or freeze for up to one month. I love how crisp, tender, and buttery they are at room temperature, but there’s something incredibly special about enjoying them chilled. Their fruity centers become chewy and their delicate exteriors become firm yet magically retain the most wonderful melt-in-your-mouth quality. Give 'em a chill and thank me later.
Vegan & Gluten-Free Holiday Thumbprint Cookies
- 2 cups (196g) oat flour*
- ½ cup (46g) coconut flour*
- 2 tablespoons (15g) ground flaxseed
- ½ teaspoon (3g) aluminum-free baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon (2g) fine-grain sea salt
- ½ cup (110g) virgin coconut oil, melted
- ½ cup (118ml) pure maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, at room temperature
- ½ cup raw almonds, walnuts, or pecans (about 70g)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup Raspberry, Strawberry, Red Currant, or Black Currant Hero Fruit Spread
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oat flour, coconut flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, and sea salt. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla and stir until just incorporated. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flours to absorb the liquids. You should have a slightly spongy cookie dough that holds its shape.
- Optional: If you'd like to coat the cookies in a cinnamon-dusted nut mixture, add the raw nuts to a food processor and process for 15 to 20 seconds, or until finely crushed. Then, transfer them to a shallow bowl and whisk in the cinnamon. If not, simply skip this step and omit the nuts and cinnamon.
- Create an assembly line. Line up the cookie dough, crushed nut mixture (if using), lined baking pans, and Hero Fruit Spread from left to right.
- Scoop out about 1 tablespoon of the cookie dough and roll into a ball (the dough will be oily to the touch). Then, gently roll the ball of dough in the nut mixture (if using), lightly coating it, and transfer to the lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. You should have 22 to 24 balls of dough.
- Use the back of a round ½ teaspoon measure to press the top of each ball of dough, forming a round indentation (it's okay if the edges crack or separate a bit). Then, use the spoon to fill each indentation with a heaping ½-teaspoon of fruit spread.
- Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden and feel gently set to the touch. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet before attempting to move or enjoy. They'll continue to firm and crisp up as they cool.
- Store in an airtight glass container for up to 4 days, refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Hero has Swiss origins (est. in 1886) and is used by chefs around the world. In 2016, Hero donated over $32,000 to Feed the Children in order to help families in need. To celebrate the spirit of giving, they're also offering a special giveaway. Be sure to enter the Spread the Goodness Holiday Sweepstakes for a chance to win a $500 supermarket gift card. No purchase necessary. Ends 12/31/16.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
Beautiful!! I love thumbprint cookies <3
Sarah | Well and Full says
That's a truly touching story about how your parents come together for Christmas in the spirit of love and family. It gives me hope for the world :)
Wow that's an amazing story. Thanks for sharing and showing people how much good can come out of a seemingly negative situation. Pinning these cookies xo
These sound delicious! What a lovely tradition as well, thanks for sharing. Love holiday baking with my brothers every Christmas eve
Ellen Lederman says
These are fabulous! I made it with ready-made 4 berry fruit spread. So good. Thank you.
2 questions.... 1: Do you think I could cut down the oat flour quantity ever so slightly (let's say, by 1/4 cup) and then add another 1/2 cup or so of crushed nuts into the dough itself? If you think it might cause binding issues, should subbing some of the remaining out flour with a GF flour blend containing xanthan gum correct that (so 1 c. oat flour, 3/4 c. flour blend, 1/2 c coconut flour, plus 1/2 cup finely ground nuts)? 2: Can the dough be refrigerated then brought back to room temp? Hoping I can make it the day before I plan to bake the cookies.
Hi, Alisha! I wouldn't recommend tinkering with the flour/nut ratio. I'm sure it's possible that another ratio could work but because I haven't tested it myself, I don't feel comfortable recommending it—wouldn't want you to waste precious (and sometimes pricey) ingredients. As for making the dough a day ahead of time and refrigerating it, that should work just fine! Hope you enjoy and happy holidays.
Okay! As long as I am able to do this tonight and refrigerate the dough, I have time to tinker! I may not want to, though because, you're right, ingredients are not cheap. We'll see and I will (if successful) report back either way. Thanks for the reply (and recipe)! Love that pretty vintage spoon of yours BTW in the photos. Anyways, Merriest of Christmases to you!
Kay Horn says
I react to maple syrup and we need to keep concentrated sugars to a minimum.
Do you think your recipe might work with mashed bananas and dates?
I'm not sure of the chemistry of maple syrup vs a fruit puree even if it is dates?
If not the puree then coconut nectar? Coconut sugar would necessitate adding liquid wouldn't it?
I hope you don't mind me asking.
Hi, Kay! Great question. Of all the substitute ideas you mentioned, I think you'll have the best luck with coconut nectar. It could alter the texture of the cookies a bit (a bit more crumbly, softer, etc.), but I think it will get you close in terms of results. Hope this helps and enjoy!