Bob’s Red Mill’s United States of Cookies: Prickly Pear Thumbprints (Arizona)

Arizona’s cookie features ground pecans in its shortbread, a vanilla-orange glaze, and a gem-bright dollop of prickly pear jelly.

Recipe source:

The original recipe name was “Prickly Pear Orange Pecan Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies” which is a mouthful for a cookie that’s a pretty small mouthful itself! There’s something to be said for brevity in a recipe name. You don’t need to list every ingredient.

Besides, the most Arizona ingredient is the prickly pear jelly, which I had to order on Etsy because I live in New England and they just don’t carry that around here. To be fair, though, I bet if someone in Arizona needed real maple syrup for a recipe, they might have to do something similar.

I admire the effort it took to make this jelly, because I heard prickly pears are a bear to deal with. They have these needles that are like slivers of glass; in one of my textbooks it said to handle them with tongs and use a knife to scrape the needles off.

Of course I had to try it. It tastes like some kind of be berry, somewhere between a strawberry and a raspberry. The only time I think I’ve had prickly pear anything was a San Pellegrino that’s flavored with that and orange.

I know I could’ve used another kind of jelly, but then it wouldn’t be Arizona. I’m trying to stay as close to the recipes as I can. I’m just glad I didn’t have to pay a premium for shipping.

This recipe is similar to cookies my mother makes, a to-die-for, much-requested almond-flavored shortbread thumbprint cookie with raspberry jam and an almond glaze. It’s one of my favorites.

Like most shortbread recipes, this calls for cold, cubed butter. If you do a lot of baking, I can’t recommend this tool highly enough:

It’s called a bench scraper or a bench knife and you can do so much with it: chop nuts or bust up chocolate into smaller pieces, cube butter, cut bread or scone dough, smooth cake frosting, cut brownies or bar cookies, or even just scrape up the mess into a pile and off your counter into the trash. Much better than​ trying to cube butter with a butter knife anyway.

“Chop until fine” so I whipped out the mini Cuisinart food processor I have.

How fine? This was about when I said “looks good to me.” For such a precise science as baking is, there’s a surprising amount of “good enough” or “looks good to me” going on. We’re not looking for pecan butter, after all. 

I don’t remember ever using the mixer in a cold butter recipe; usually I’m cutting butter in by hand with a pastry blender. A bench scraper also does this job in a pinch. I’ll never understand why even occasional bakers would use the “two butter knives” method when you can buy at least a cheap pastry blender at the supermarket. I’d rather use my hands to “rub in” the butter – yes, that is a thing – than two knives.

It starts out very crumbly…
…but eventually it does come together.

This is another time when the imprecision is mildly annoying: “small cookie scoop.” How small? I have a tablespoon one and a teaspoon one. I went with the tablespoon. Very rarely is the teaspoon one big enough.

This is the part I look forward to sharing with the kiddo when he’s old enough to help in the kitchen. I remember my sister and I helping our mom roll peanut butter blossoms. 

I have found that these skinny little, long-handled “iced tea spoons” are perfect for depositing a little bit of filling right where you need it.

Baking was where things got a little tricky again: “just until cookies are set.” Hard to tell when they’re set. It’s a very dry, clay-like dough and those often seem still raw, then you bake longer and longer, then when they cool they turn into rocks. The same happens with crumb crusts. This recipe has no eggs so butter is basically the only thing holding it together.

They don’t look much different post-bake.

The thing about jelly is it really holds its shape. Jam is more amorphous; it’ll spread into the thumbprint. I thought the jelly would melt in the oven and sink in but either 350°F or 10 min isn’t hot/long enough. So whatever shape the spoon made the chunk of jelly, it stayed that way.

Either 12 minutes (the length I baked the first tray) isn’t enough time, these were too big/thick, or the moisture of the jam affected it, but the center of the cookies were moister (still raw?) They had a clayey rather than sandy mouthfeel. Tasty, but not what I expect from shortbread. And yes, I did use the correct amount of butter this time. 

I could’ve gone with​ a half recipe on the glaze, but I guess some amounts get too small to handle at that size, specifically the extracts. I’m not sure if it’s because my orange extract is a little old (and maybe concentrated with age/evaporation) but the glaze’s flavor was pretty strong. I also had to add more water because with only one tablespoon to a cup of confectionery sugar made it closer to spreadable than drizzly.

They said to use a spoon for a more “rustic” look; I always use a fork. More drizzle.

Overall Impressions

Tasty but such a small batch! My husband wanted me to make another batch so he could bring more to work (my strategy to avoid us gaining a ton of weight from these experiments is to keep a dozen or so and send the rest in with him). At half a pound of butter each batch, that’s not the cheapest proposition.

I mentioned the clayey mouthfeel. The prickly pear jelly is a unique treat to my New England palate. I’m not sure they really need the glaze, but I forgot to try one without before I glazed them all. They sure are pretty. They’d look nice on a cookie plate.

Tips and Suggestions

  • Bake longer.
  • Try to shape the jelly so it fills the thumbprint nicely, perhaps melt it and add it after.
  • Make a half recipe of the glaze.

Next Time

Chocolate Turtle Cookies for Arkansas. More pecans and more caramel (I still have some from Alabama!) This makes a more normal batch size and good thing; I think they’re going to be popular. 

All images by Amber Sutton

Originally published at

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