My mom asked me the other day if I had found any interesting new ingredients to use in my cooking lately. I thought for a minute, skipped over to the kitchen, and came back with a micro glass jar of all-natural vanilla powder. She agreed, it was pretty cute, even through Facetime. Ever since then that little jar has been sitting on my desk. Today I found a nice use for it.
These Vanilla Chestnut Thumbprint Cookies are a throwback to all of our childhoods, the kind of cookie you’d want to come home to after school on the day you were sure to have flunked your algebra test. They are less hard than my Anise Tea Biscuit Sablés and have a lighter yet more intricate texture, thanks to two ingredients: rice flour and a “melange de 5 flocons”. They are also made with “farine de petit epautre,” (little spelt flour) which is an almost gluten-free flour that is packed with nutrients, as well as farine de “sarrasin”, (buckwheat flour) although just a little to avoid the cookies getting too sturdy…
Step one in making these cookies is the filling. It’s essentially homemade “creme de marron” (chestnut cream) which is lighter and much less sugary than the variety you’ll find at the supermarket in France. It’s made from dehydrated chestnut flakes that you heat up on the stove in some sugary water. Once boiling for about 10 minutes, I added a little agar-agar dissolved in cold water first along with a sprinkle of the natural vanilla powder. This ensured that the creme de marron would set and would not stay soupy, since I tried not to overdo the sugar content in my home made filling. It worked like a charm.
Then I made the cookie batter itself, letting it sit about four hours before assembling the cookies.
I let the flocons rest in only the butter, sugar and eggs, covered in the refrigerator. After the four hours were up, I added the flours, baking powder, and vanilla powder.
By waiting, you ensure that the “flocons” have time to break down a little and thus be more easily digested. I used a “melange de 5 flocons” that you find at health food stores, which is essentially a mix of wheat, barley, rice, rye, and oat.
To make the cookies, you can pick up a little dough with your hands, roll it into a ball, and place on a cookie sheet. Once all of the balls are formed, you traditionally can use your thumb to make the little thumbprint in the middle. I found the handle of a teaspoon made the hole a little tidier 😉
Then I placed a scoop of my firm creme de marron mixture in the center of each cookie (don’t be shy, heap it on!) and baked at 200C (392F) for about 10 minutes.
This is a fun recipe to make, and you can absolutely taste the vanilla in both the cookie and in the creme de marron filling. It’s a lovely spice! I am glad my little jar of vanilla powder went to good use. (There’s plenty more to make lots more cookies…) Quality spices are an investment, but they make all the difference…
Until next time, please grab one!
Vanilla Bean Powder:
Light Spelt Flour (the closest to Farine de Petit Epautre):