An interview with Deborah Harroun of the blog Taste and Tell, and her amazing, from scratch Red Velvet Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies.
I can’t think of a better way to start off the holiday baking season than with a festive cookie recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers Deborah Harroun, author of the food blog Taste and Tell, and her new cookbook Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook.
If you don’t already follow her blog, Deb might still be a familiar face to FoodieCrush readers. She and her husband Josh along with their three children, Abbi, Easton and Camden (in utero!) joined me two years ago at the State Fair for an article in my summer issue of FoodieCrush magazine. They rode rides, hit the games and noshed on favorite fair food which Deb took back to her own kitchen and created fair-inspired recipes you can see here.
Deb has always been a huge supporter and inspiration to me and to FoodieCrush. So when she offered to send me a copy of her new cookbook, Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook, I knew before even seeing it that I’d be finding plenty of delicious influences. These Cream Cheese Thumbprint cookies are pretty much just the start.
With nearly 2,000 blog posts spanning 7+ years, Deb’s blog delivers plenty of family friendly recipes ranging from standard favorites like Gnocchi With Meat Sauce to totally inventive Jalapeño Stuffed Taco Soft Pretzel Sticks.
But one recipe theme has become near and dear to her heart: red velvet. She’s dedicated weeks of posts exclusively for red velvet recipes and soon enough, cookbook publishers took notice and asked her to compile a few faves and a lot of new recipes into a hard cover cookbook.
In Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook, Deb covers basic favorite recipes like The Best Red Velvet Cupcakes and then leaps into a red-hued sugarland with red velvet quick breads, cookies, brownies and bars, breads, ice cream and even red velvet “Twinkies.”
Let’s dig in!
Deborah shares her recipe for Red Velvet Whoopie Pies on the morning show, Good Things Utah. Check out the video of her appearance.
Behind the scenes with Deborah of Taste and Tell
1. What inspired you to create a book all about red velvet?
I became obsessed with red velvet a few years ago after making and blogging about a couple of red velvet recipes. Because they were so delicious and fun, I decided to do a red velvet week with 5 red velvet recipes. It was so popular and so fun for me that the tradition continued the next year, and then the next.
Writing a cookbook wasn’t really on my radar, but when my publisher reached out to me, the idea immediately excited me. I had a newborn at the time, and didn’t really know how I could pull it off, but I was so excited about it that I just had to go for it!
2. What was your favorite part about the book, and your favorite part about the process? What was the least favorite?
My favorite part of the process was having people taste the recipes and love them. I remember my husband coming home from work one day after taking the Red Velvet Cheesecake in for his coworkers, and telling me that people were asking if they could pay me to make another. I don’t know if I have a least favorite part of the process, per se, but the photography was the most challenging for me. I think it’s because I wanted it perfect, and like so many people, I am critical of myself, but in the end, I was very happy with how it all turned out.
3. What did you discover about yourself while writing it?
I don’t know if I should admit this, but I learned that I work best under pressure. When deadlines are looming and I know I only have x amount of time, I tend to work more efficiently.
And now, my list of 10 Q’s with Deborah of Taste and Tell
1. Describe your blog in 3 words:
Easy, family, friendly
2. If you could be one food blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
Lindsay from Pinch of Yum. I am constantly impressed with her blog and how authentic and real she comes across. She is the kind of blogger I aim to be.
3. Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
There are so many amazing blogs – that is a hard question!! I think that I’d have to go with 3 that I know I can go to for recipes that would be a hit every time and blogs whose recipes I actually cook from regularly!
Mel’s Kitchen Cafe – Mel is as down to earth as they come, and every single one of her recipes is a home run.
The Girl Who Ate Everything – I think I’ve made more recipes from Christy’s blog than anyone else’s. Her taste is spot on the same as mine.
Lauren’s Latest – Lauren’s recipes are always winners, too. And her posts are always entertaining!
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
A good knife. I’m lucky that my husband is good at keeping my knives nice and sharp, and they make dinner prep easier and faster. Couldn’t live without them!
Kristy of Sweet Treats and More, Deborah, Carrian of Oh, Sweet Basil and Christy of The Girl Who Ate Everything
5. What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
I would have to say anything on the grill. A few years ago I was completely afraid of grilling and left it completely up to my husband. I have been grilling a lot more myself, but I’m still not 100% comfortable or confident. But I’m determined to get there!
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
Creamy Chicken Pesto Penne from The Picky Palate Cookbook. I needed something easy and something I could make from pantry staples, and it totally fit the bill. My husband claimed he wasn’t hungry before dinner but then ended up eating seconds!
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you?
I don’t know if I’d call it a talent, but I love photography. I take millions of pictures of my kids, and I get really excited about capturing places on camera when I travel.
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating:
Is it cheating if I say everything?? There really is very little that I don’t like when it comes to food. I adore a decadent meal at a 5 star restaurant or a burger at the local food truck equally.
9. You juggle 3 young kids, a husband and your blog is your full time job with new posts nearly every day. What are your secrets or processes to fit it all in?
Very little sleep!! In all honesty, I truly love what I do. I get excited about trying new recipes, or getting a new cookbook in the mail, or just being in the kitchen. And I always want to share it all!! I think if you have that love and that passion, you find a way to make it work. Are there days that I’m frustrated and tired and don’t know how I’m going to do it all? Of course!! But I can’t imagine my life without the blog.
10. The one secret ingredient to your success is:
I’m going to steal these words from someone else – you get what you think about most of the time. If you are always thinking about how your traffic isn’t growing, or how frustrated you are that the reach on your Facebook page is terrible, they are going to stay that way. But if you focus on the positive things, good things will come to you. It’s not easy – it’s something I work on every day, but on the days I live by that statement, everything just seems to fall into place.
Wise, wise words! Thank you Deb, you’ve been my foodie crush since I first started blogging and I’m thrilled for you and all you’ve accomplished.
Now, let’s get to those cookies!
Ah, sweet! Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
Deb’s Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook features all kinds of recipes that would fit in well with the holidays, but this easy recipe for Cream Cheese Thumbprints spoke to me. Probably because I crave easy.
About the recipe:
These cookies are really easy to make and because there’s extra smooshing with your thumb to be done, they’re fun to get the kids involved in making too. They’re like playing with sweetly sugared play dough that you can actually eat.
The cookies are dunked into an egg white wash and then bathed in sugar. I absent mindedly forgot to dip two of the cookies into the egg wash before the sugar and figured, hey, let’s see what happens. I’ll tell you what didn’t happen. The sugar didn’t crisp and it soaked into the cookie rather than adding the delicious crunch that perfectly contrasts the soft cookie center. As a first time maker of the cookies, I did end up using a bit more sugar for rolling than the recipe called for so was glad I had a little extra on hand.
After the cookies were finished baking, I used a knife to gently crack off the edges of the sugared egg white that baked off of the cookie to reveal a pretty, lightly crunchy round edge.
The cream cheese filling…do I even need to say anything? It’s everyone’s favorite bite.
These cookies are great all year round and can easily be decorated for every holiday. A simple sprinkling of peppermint candies makes them perfect for Christmas, but candy hearts for Valentines personalizes them for your favorite cupid and blue and white sprinkles would add a pop to the 4th of July. Or you can always leave them as is. They taste just as good.
If you try this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram or Twitter with #foodiecrush and #tasteandtell!
Red Velvet Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
For the cookies
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons red liquid food coloring
- 2 teaspoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup granulated sugar
For the filling
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Beat the butter, brown sugar, and 1 egg yolk (reserve the other yolk for the filling) in a large bowl with and electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour, food coloring, and cocoa and mix until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough into 36 balls.
- Place the egg whites in a shallow bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Place the granulated sugar in a separate shallow bowl. Roll each dough ball in the egg whites and then in the sugar. Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheets. Make an indentation in the top of each cookie with your thumb.
- To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, the reserved egg yolk, salt, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Removed them from the oven and use the handle of a wooden spoon to deepen the indentation (be careful not to break them.) Fill each cookie with about 1 teaspoon of the filling, then return the cookies to the oven and bake until the cookies and fillings are set, about 12 minutes more. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in the refrigerator. Allow the cookies to come to room temperature before serving.
Purchase Deb’s cookbook, Red Velvet Lover’s Cookbook, here.
Follow Deborah here:
Taste and Tell blog
Cookies for Santa’s Milk Drive
Did you know milk is one of the most requested items at our nation’s food banks but is rarely donated?
Join me this holiday season for the Cookies for Santa’s Milk Drive and donate online to send one gallon of milk to your local food bank and serve those in need. It’s a small thing that will make a huge difference.
Make it a great day friends, and cook something good.
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wish i had read the comments before making these. i had a bit more luck then some people who tried them but they were not pretty at all. taste was OK but I wouldn’t give away or serve to anyone outside of close family members as they were rather ugly cookies. some were flat some were not – not sure the egg is needed to roll in as it created a mess with the sugar. won’t try them again.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
Sorry about that Marsha. Thanks for the feedback
I have baked Christmas cookies (4-5kinds) every year and never had such a fail. I can’t begin to understand how or why, and don’t think I’ll try again. Moving on to something else. This is the first time I felt better after reading the comments. Lesson learned to read comments ahead of trying.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
Sorry about that Mary! I hope the rest of your cookies turned out great!
I made the red velvet thumbprints cookies. Followed the recipe to the max & they did not turn out at all!
I baked one sheet & ended up throwing the rest of the dough out
I would not make them again!
These turned out horrible. I followed the recipe EXACT, but when they came out of the oven they where all LIQUID. I am very disappointed. I was supposed to make these for a Christmas party, but now I can not bring anything.
These cookies did not work. Too crumbly and they stuck to the pan. They don’t look appetizing. Would not recommend!
So disappointed. Made these for a cookie exchange and I was another epic fail. These cookies fell apart completely. The egg /sugar mixture was a mess and they stuck to the cooking sheet. I followed the directions to a T. Such a bummer I have to start over and make another type of cookie for my exchange.
Wow, some of the comments above are pretty harsh for such an easy and delightful recipe. I am not a professional baker, actually, I rarely bake and I followed the recipe as written and they turned out fabulous. as a matter of fact, I made them for our church Christmas program tomorrow where they serve supper and cookies afterward. I made them early so that wouldn’t be rushing around in the morning. I just went to the fridge a little bit ago and low and behold there were only 4 cookies left. My children thought they were “AMAZING”. So, good job on the recipe from the Costello household and Mama Costello is very glad that they are quick to make because I will be making more before bed. And since my children are such cookie connoisseurs, I am more than certain that my church family will love them as well. Thanks for this fabulous recipe, I will be putting it in my favorites collections.
My husband and I made these together today and they are delicious. I had just enough filling. They look and taste great! We just followed the recipe very carefully! Love them!
Wow! I JUST made these. Reread the directions as i went along. Wonderful recipe. I got 30 cookies and left over frosting so i have no idea what anyone else is tslking about. Not flat at all. I did cook them a little longer before filling, because with common sense, i could tell they werent ready. Thank you and Merry Christmas!!!!
Worst cookie recipe ever. It’s not even really a recipe because it’s such a fail. I am so angry at myself for not reading the comments before I made them, otherwise I would have chosen something else. Now I have to go to a cookie exchange in 1 hour with these embarrassing cookies. I will be going to Publix to buy B1G1F Dove Chocolates and dole them out with my apologies because I will NOT be bringing these disasters to an exchange. This page should seriously be deleted.
I’m sorry, but your post made me laugh as I JUST baked them as well for an exchange on Wednesday and they are not worthy to take. I didn’t read any of these comments before, but they were right on for the most part with my own experience and I’m generally a very competent baker. Luckily we made some others as well. Hope the chocolates worked :)
I just finished making these and they turned out great! I followed the recipe as written and had no issues! In fact I ended up with 40 cookies and was worried I won’t have enough filling but I did! They look great and taste even better!
Thanks Reenie, and so glad they turned out for you. I’m not sure why they didn’t work for some others.
Ok…cock-eyed optimist that I am…I gave them another go…I have never been stymied by a cookie before. I bought new cookie pans….read the suggestions (although many concerns about the recipe were not addressed). I added an extra 1/2 Tbsp of cocoa to cover the flour taste…I refrigerated the dough….still a blob…lowered temp…they end up with a dark brown crust of egg white that when you try to chip off, the “cookie crumbles” . On average 3/12 cookies break when trying to remove.
These pictures look NOTHING like the “real thing”. Cookies are not rocket science. This is a major miss.
Sorry you had such a bad experience Carolyn. I followed the recipe and these cookies are indeed what I ended up with. I’m really sorry!
Wow! I thought I was the only one that made these cookies only to find they all crumbled! It seemed like the 3rd batch in oven was probably the one and only batch that did not crumble when I took off pan with a spatula. Maybe the pan should be sprayed with Pam. Maybe you need less sugar because by the last batch, there was very little sugar to roll ball in! I followed the recipe to a T!! This was probably my least favorite cookie to ever make and I would not recommend! Sorry but I have to be honest!
I noticed the recipe as published did not call for any leavening agent…baking powder or soda. I forged ahead and also ended up with beautifully colored, but flat cookies on my first pan despite refrigerating the dough. I am going to add some baking powder to the remaining dough and see what happens!
Adding 1/2 tsp of baking powder and soda did not make my cookies any less flat. Neither did putting the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes after balls were rolled and coated. Oh well. I sprinkled them with the Andes red and white peppermint sprinkles. They do have a really nice texture and taste great!
Can I substitute the red food coloring for beet juice? Has anyone tried this before? If so, what was the outcome?
I have someone I’m baking for who is allergic to red coloring.
Hi! May I ask for the filling what kind of sugar? are these white or powdered sugar? thankyou! need your response for our laboratory. thanks!
It calls for white sugar. Good luck in your cookie lab.
Okay…when I made them the other day…they were one of 4 things I had on the go…they looked awful but tasted delicious. I tried them again tonight, with no distractions….they have the texture of dried out play doh….and taste the same!! AAAAHHHHHHH! How to make more moist? WHAT DID I DO RIGHT that made them come out MORE WRONG???? Would take ugly moist and yummy cookies over what I made tonight!
Hmmm. I have no idea what could have changed. Butter at room temperature, or was it too soft or hard? Lower temp for the oven? I’m just not sure how to advise as I wasn’t there. If you feel up to it, give them another try. I’m not sure why this recipe is giving people such challenges as it worked well for me straight from the book, and Deb’s recipes are always winners whenever I’ve made them! Sorry it’s so frustrating!
YoU want to maKe cookies moist and not flatten the secret is the yellow on egg don’t ever use the white egg if you want your cookie not to get flatten and stay moist, but this won’t be look and taste like typical American cookies just to note you on that, I’m a baker and cake decorator anyways, the ingredient that make the cookies spreading bigger is baking soda, if you want the taste still look like American cookies mix 1 whole eggs with 2 eggs yok or equal part 1:1 , but then the possibility your cookies will turn flat still there
ok so I had the sticking problem but made extra filling. Now that we have identified the problem how can we fix it. I also add more vanilla and cocoa powder to help with flavor.
Use Parchment Paper
I made these cookies and they did not flatten out, they turned out quite lovely…except for the taste! I followed the recipe, but I did however, double the filling after reading the comments. While I could eat buckets full of the filling, the actually cookie taste like I baked flour and water. No thanks. I won’t be making these again, even if they are super cute.
I agree. I made these for my husband’s cookie exchange. Turned out looking fine, but the main cookie just tasted awful. Definitely a strong flour taste. The cream cheese topping definitely helped them taste better. Not sure what I did wrong or if they just taste like that.
Don’t feel bad Caroline, I ended up with an epic fail as well. And as a rule, I’m an AAWESOME cookie baker. Mine too, cooked out almost flat. And they were all but impossible to get off the cookie sheet. They crumbled and broke apart in the process. Again, not nearly enough filling to use the recommended amount. And the filling tasted more like a custard, more salty than sweet. I double checked all my ingredients, all the measurements, etc. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what went wrong. I didnt even finish baking the entire batch.
I’m sorry your cookies were flat, too! I told Carolyn (above), but they shouldn’t be flattening out like that at all. I would try refrigerating the dough before baking or lowering the oven temperature – that should help with the spreading.
Epic fail. I could post to the “nailed it” website for Pinterest. Cookies smeared almost flat….there was no further indentng to be done. The egg wash/sugar just makes a big mess. There is NO WAY to get 36 tsps of cream cheese mixture (for the 36 cookies) from the ingredients listed (4 Oz cream cheese etc.)
I’m so sorry you had problems with these!! They definitely shouldn’t be flattening out. I’m not exactly sure why they didn’t work out for you – the only suggestions I can think of would be to chill the dough before baking the cookies, and sometimes lowering the oven temperature and baking a few minutes longer will help cookies to keep their shape. For the filling, there is just enough for a scant teaspoon in each cookie. I found that with anymore filling than that, it was hard to keep the filling inside of the cookie.
I used 3 tspns food colouring and measured the balls to 20gm each and managed to get 36 cookies – they do crumble a lot especially if you try and get the baked egg white off – for once the timing was perfect when it came to baking – had to use a lot more sugar than what was stated in the recipe to get a good coating of sugar – sprinkle it over the top and shake the bowl to gt good coverage – look cute – taste is ok
Major fail for me too. I put these on a ungreased cookie sheet against my better judgement and, yikes, what a disaster. The cookies are soo crumbly and the sugar is just kind of messy. I had a hard time getting it on evenly. I also had to double the frosting recipe. I’m sad to say I don’t think they’re even “okay” enough to serve :(
YAY! I love Deborah so very, very much! She’s amazing!
Laura (Tutti Dolci)
Gorgeous cookies, these are so festive and perfect for the holidays!
Those cookies look delicious, loved the holiday colors. I enjoyed your interview with Deb, it’s always interesting to find out about the person behind all that hard work. Congrats on your new book Deb, it looks great.
Liz @ Floating Kitchen
Yeah, I love Deb’s blog. And these cookies look FAB and so flipping festive!!
Deb is the best —- I can’t wait to read the book, and these cookies are so soft and plushy and … red!
Barbara @ Barbara Bakes
Such a fun post to read. I love Deb and her cute new Red Velvet Lovers cookbook.
I am so honored and humbled to be featured here today, Heidi. Thank you so much for your kind words and your support!! xoxo!
Recipe sounds delicious…wonder what it would taste like with a white candy melt discs in the middle..red velvet and white chocolate…yummy!!
Sarah | Broma Bakery
Just gorgeous! And so teensy, I bet you can’t eat just one. Loved the interview, too! No chef can live without a great knife :)