Whole Wheat Apple Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Soft, half whole wheat thumbprint cookies, filled with apple butter and rolled in pecan pieces

I love cookies and these have got to be up there on my favorites list now. They're half whole wheat and they're as delightful, if not more so, than any other white flour cookie. In fact, many of the cookies we typically make are at least half whole wheat flour. It adds the nutrition benefits of whole grains without ruining the goodness and essence of a cookie. You want the cookie, you want to live, breathe and indulge in said cookie, so what is the point of even bothering with the cookie if it tastes like junk? If you're going to make a health tweak to an indulgence, it has to add to the end result or make it taste just as good. Long story short here...it does. It so does. 

This recipe is a blend of two childhood food memories. First let's talk apple butter. I grew up going to a teeny tiny Methodist church every Sunday with my Mom. Except it wasn't really a churchy-church... it was more a group of people who knew each other for decades who had an excuse to get together once a week and eat. Methodists are really good at potlucks. Ham dinner. Spaghetti dinner. At the local Virginia fair the church fundraiser was apple butter. Ever year, to make said apple butter, we would all go to Ted and Fern's house who I can only describe as "the grandparents to everyone". Ted and Fern had the kind of small farm where the kids were highly encouraged to go do all sorts of slightly dangerous outdoorsy things. Brush the elderly miniature shetland pony with an attitude. Run barefoot across the field during yellow jacket season... things like that. Summer evenings, with enough cajoling, Ted would take everyone in the back of the big red pick up truck down what used to be the country roads of Loudoun County. We would throw in a ton of blankets, lay like sausages and stare up at the passing foliage. Each year, between all of this country-neighborhood-grandparenting, Ted and the rest of the older men from the town would pull out the giant kettles (like the kind you see in literary references to cannibals) to cook apple butter. It takes hours of stirring, but the end result is worth it (I say as a bystander who never had to do the work). It smells sweet, spicy and a bit smoky and without a true dedication of time, and some serious arm power you just can't make apple butter happen.

whole wheat apple butter thumbprint cookies 
whole wheat apple butter thumbprint cookies 

Same deal with thumbprint cookies. When it  cokes to most cookies, I personally think "Thanksgiving". Coming from a rigorously organized extended family (my grandparents are ex-state department, so we were really great at scheduling traditions), the day before or after Thanksgiving, you always made Christmas cookies. And not just a batch. You made batches of batches of at least six types, divided them into cookie tins for the rest of the season and you WORKED for the pay off of cookies. Thumbprints were one of those cookies that were a real pain in the ass to make because you were required, if you were one of the kids, to use your tiny fingers to make tiny indents exactly in the middle of the cookies and fill the tiny indents with a variety of colored icing. Like I said...a real pain in the ass. But there was always a riot when Grandma mentioned maybe we should bypass making them this year... We never bypassed making them. 

Make the cookies. Buy the apple butter. You're going to make everyone happy. Especially since this recipe is for 12 cookies. You can do 12 imprints with the back of a teaspoon set. It's worth it. 

whole wheat apple butter thumbprint cookies 

whole wheat apple butter thumbprint cookies

dessert: makes 12 cookies

/// Ingredients ///

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, white and yolk divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup apple butter


/// Directions ///

Preheat oven to 300 F. Separate egg and white. Place egg white in a bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and yolk until whipped and fluffy light brown. Add vanilla, flours, salt and mix well, scraping down sides as needed with a spatula. 

Shape dough into 12 balls. Roll each ball in egg white then chopped nuts. Place on a baking mat or parchment paper on a pan and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake 5 minutes. Remove form oven and use the back of a  1/2 teaspoon to make an indent in the middle of the dough ball. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned and no longer shiny/wet looking. Remove from oven and rest for 5 mins. Fill with 1/2 teaspoon apple butter. Store in fridge. 


whole wheat apple butter thumbprint cookies 

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