Makes 18 cookies
A Ritz cracker smeared with cream cheese and hot pepper jelly is the holy trinity of snacking. The cooling richness of the cream cheese balances the sweet spiciness of the pepper jelly, while the buttery crunch of a Ritz cracker holds it all together. It’s the ultimate combination of hot, cold, smooth, and crisp. These festive thumbprint cookies borrow that same flavor profile.
1½ cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour (192 grams), plus more for dusting
2 cups (235 grams) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, yellow or white
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 stick (8 tablespoons/113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
⅓ cup (104 grams) pepper jelly (see Note)
1 large egg
1 sleeve (about 32 crackers/106 grams) Ritz crackers, crushed
6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85 grams) cream cheese, softened
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the flour, shredded cheese, salt, and paprika. Process until the cheese is broken down into tiny pieces, 20 to 25 seconds. Add the butter and pulse 15 to 20 times, just until a soft dough forms. (Do not overmix. As soon as it looks moist and starts to stick together, stop mixing.)
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and press together into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
Place the pepper jelly in a small bowl and stir to break up any lumps. Place the egg in a small bowl and stir with a fork until no streak of yolk remains. Place the crushed crackers in a shallow, wide bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and set 2 racks at the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
Portion out the chilled dough using your hands and roll into balls about 1½ inches in diameter (18 balls total). Working with one ball at a time, dip the ball in the egg, then roll in the crushed crackers to coat it. Place the balls at least 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (9 per sheet). Using the bottom of a teaspoon-sized measuring spoon, press in the center of each ball to create an indentation. If the sides of the balls crack while pressing them, just pinch them back together.
Bake both sheets of the unfilled cookies at the same time, until the edges are just starting to brown slightly but the centers are still raw, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Use the bottom of the teaspoon to press down on the indentations to flatten them again. Fill each indentation with 1 teaspoon of cream cheese, pressing it into the bottom of the indentation as best you can. Top each filling with about 1 teaspoon of the pepper jelly. Bake once more (swapping the bottom sheet to the top this time) until the cookies are deep golden brown on the sides, 10 to 12 minutes more. Let cool for at least 1 hour on the baking sheets.
“Reprinted with permission from Cookies. Copyright © 2021by Jesse Szewczyk. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Chelsea Kyle. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”
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