cranberry wassail thumbprint cookies

Cranberry Wassail Thumbprint Cookies

It’s Christmas cookie season!!!!  If you’re looking for more cookie ideas, check out my cookie archive.  I’ll also post a few new ideas throughout the month of December, so be sure to check back on Wednesdays to see what’s new.

These cookies are the product of the endless deluge of Christmas music running through my head.  You can only hear “Here We Come A-Wassailing” in your head so many times before you go mad.  Thankfully for me, madness waited until after the idea for this cookie was born (at least that’s what I tell myself…).

For those of you who’ve never had the curiosity to google wassail, it’s a medieval punch of hot mulled cider that was served as part of a harvest festival.  As the song suggests, it was also served from a large bowl to carolers in exchange for their well wishes.  Traditionally, it’s made from sweetened mulled cider with apples and/or oranges, holiday spices, and eggs.  I aimed to capitalize on those fruity, spicy flavors while also changing it up just a little bit.

These cookies serve as little punch bowls for a cranberry-filled wassail (see? madness!).  They’re sweet, little balls of holiday flavor that will make a nice addition to any holiday cookie basket.  The tartness of the cranberries balances the sweetness of the apple and orange juices, and the spice combination smells and tastes like Christmas.

If cranberry isn’t your thing, you could probably modify the jam recipe to work with applesauce instead, or just used pre-made apple butter (don’t forget to add the orange and spices, though).  Next time I make these, I might increase the orange zest and/or use orange juice concentrate in the cookies (and possibly the jam) to intensify the orange flavor.  If you’re more of a fan of subtle flavors, try these as they are first.

You will need the following ingredients:

For the cookies:

Cranberry Wassail Thumbprint Cookie Ingredients

  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ tsp. ginger
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • zest of one orange (approximately 1 Tbsp.)
  • 1 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 egg

For the cranberry wassail jam:

Cranberry Wassail Jam Ingredients

  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries (thaw if frozen)
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup apple cider (mine came from the awesome people at Spurgeon Veggies)
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves, tied up in a cheesecloth packet

For baking ambiance:

  • I made these cookies during that super productive weekend that was fueled by Kenny Loggins.  Obviously, it makes much more sense to listen to Christmas carols to infuse your cookies with holiday cheer, though.  [Still, if you want to go with Kenny Loggins again, I fully support that motion.]

Here we go a-baking!

First, you need to make the jam.  [If you don’t want to go to the trouble, you could theoretically use pre-made cranberry sauce or a different flavor of jam.]  Stir together all the jam ingredients in a medium saucepan.

jam ingredients

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat and simmer the jam, stirring from time to time, until it becomes thick (this takes about 20 minutes).

cooked jam

Remove and discard the cinnamon sticks and cloves packet.  Allow the jam to cool completely before using.  It will thicken while it stands.

thickened jam

When your jam is ready to use, preheat your oven to 350°F and line or grease your cookie sheets.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer bowl or other large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Creamed Butter and Sugar

Beat in the egg, orange juice, and orange zest until just combined.

wet ingredients

Stir in the dry ingredients in two batches until just incorporated.

cranberry wassail cookie dough

Using a cookie scoop, scoop the dough into 1″ balls.  Use your hands to smooth them out if necessary.  Roll the dough balls in a bowl of sugar and arrange them on the cookie sheets.  Stick your thumb ½” into each ball.

Thumbprint Cookies Ready to Fill

Fill each hole with jam (it took about ¼ teaspoon each for mine).

cookies with jam

Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown.

baked thumbprint cookies

Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets, then remove them to cooling racks to cool completely.


cranberry wassail thumbprint cookies

You can download the printable PDF recipe here: Cranberry Wassail Thumbprint Cookies

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