Recipe: Thumbelina Cookies


Many years ago, when my husband and I were first engaged, we took a road trip to Pennsylvania to tell his grandmother. When we arrived, she congratulated us and had a beautiful spread of cheese, crackers and apricot brandy waiting for us. After we talked for a bit, his grandmother said that she wanted to show me something. She disappeared for a moment and came back with her precious recipe box. She told me she would like to share some of her favorite recipes with me.

To this day, it remains as one of my favorite memories. It was a very special moment knowing that this was her way of welcoming me into the family. I eagerly looked through the aged cards and was amazed to see so many unfamiliar recipes scrawled across them. Recipes for dishes like Pennsylvania Dutch filling, pierogis, blintzes, galumpkis, and thumbelinas. I happily copied down a few of the recipes and was thrilled that I would be able to recreate several beloved delicacies from my husband’s childhood.

The Thumbelina cookies quickly became one of our household favorites and our family has eaten many of them over the years. These buttery cookies are crisp and chewy with the perfect amount of sweetness. They are exceptionally easy to prepare and use the most basic ingredients: flour, butter, egg, sugar, salt, vanilla, and jam. All of these items are probably sitting in your kitchen at this very moment.


The first time I made thumbelinas for my children was quite memorable. Their grandfather had been feeling under the weather and I thought that a plateful of cookies, hand delivered by his grandchildren, would be the perfect pick-me-up. I quickly baked up a batch of these simple cookies for everyone to enjoy with some milk and tea.

When they came out of the oven, I placed them on baking racks to cool. I offered one to my daughter, who was very young at the time. I explained to her that she would love it because she loves cookies and jam – and that’s what was in this cookie. She accepted the cookie and poked at the jam center suspiciously as she walked away. While the rest of the cookies cooled, I left the kitchen to pack up what we would need for our fun little adventure to their Grandpa’s house.

After a short while, I returned to the kitchen and saw that the cookies had disappeared! There were crumbs scattered throughout the kitchen and all that remained were just a handful of cookies on the cooling rack. As I approached the countertop to inspect the remaining cookies, I noticed that they were missing their jam centers and it looked as though the centers had been licked clean.

I found my daughter sitting contently in the playroom with two fistfuls of cookies covered in jam and crumbs. When I asked what happened to the cookies, she calmly explained that she really did like them and she liked the jam even better!

Unfortunately, the cookies never made it to Grandpa’s house that day. All the cookies were gone and my daughter promptly came down with an epic belly ache. Now, whenever I make these sweet little cookies, I smile and think of my charming daughter. I think that I will rename them “Avalinas” in admiration of her passion for these yummy little sweets.

Thumbelina Cookies



  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Bake at 350 degrees. Makes approximately 18 cookies. Use jams of various flavors when filling the centers for a colorful presentation.

  1. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Blend in flour and salt.
  2. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven. Dent the center of each ball with the back of a small teaspoon.
  4. Fill centers with jam or marmalade. Bake for another 12-15 minutes.