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Apple Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Mike Costello/Amy Dawson / TODAY

Chef notes

On the farm, winter is the end of harvest season which means preserves and canned goods are the stars of our kitchen this time of year. This recipe has been passed down in our families for generations, but we’ve added a few Lost Creek touches. We use our house-made apple butter instead of jam in our reimagined thumbprint cookie. Buckwheat flour mixed into the dough adds a nice earthy flavor, while a sprinkling of sugar and fine-ground black walnuts both add unique texture. 


  • ¾ cup finely ground black walnuts
  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft and room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar, divided
  • 1 cup apple butter



Preheat the oven to 350 F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.


Spread the walnuts out evenly in a single layer in a lightly greased heavy-bottom skillet set over medium heat. Saute for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds or so, until the walnuts are evenly golden brown. Transfer the walnuts to a plate, set them aside and allow to cool completely.    


In a small bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour and salt until combined. In another small bowl, combine the beaten eggs and vanilla extract. 


In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and ½ cup sugar. 


Slowly add the egg mixture and beat until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. 


Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until combined, scraping down the sides as necessary.


Add the walnuts and mix until combined. The finished dough should be soft and slightly tacky, but not sticky.


Spread remaining sugar evenly on a plate.


Use a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon to scoop out portions of the dough. Lightly press each portion of dough between your hands and roll into evenly-shaped spheres, then roll through the sugar, ensuring even coverage. Arrange on dough balls on a prepared baking sheet.


Make a teaspoon-sized divot in each ball of dough. While the name of this cookie suggests using your thumb, using a round measuring spoon for consistency of shape and size is best. Press the bottom of the spoon into the top of the dough ball, applying light and even pressure until the rim of the spoon is even with the dough. To avoid sticking, put some oil on a paper towel and wipe the bottom of the spoon before each pressing.  


Completely fill each divot with apple butter. You could use a small spoon, but for simplicity and neatness, transfer it to a squeeze bottle or piping bag, if possible. 


Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and enjoy!