From the Arcade Bakery to Fallingwater’s Kitchen
June 26, 2020
Kaufmann’s Department Store was known for more than just its clothing selection, jewelry and fine goods. A visit to Kaufmann’s was an experience. While searching for high-quality toys or one-of-a-kind household items, visitors were able to enjoy refreshments and delicious treats. At the height of its operations, there were as many as five sit-down restaurants, as well as hot dog and ice cream stands, a candy shop and the ever-popular Arcade Bakery. The bakery was named for its location on the vaulted, ‘arcade’ level of the building. Here, it was in 1980 that the classic Thumbprint Cookie was created as a delicious twist on an old favorite.
A shortbread-like cookie with a small indentation in the center - the 'thumbprint' – was topped with any number of flavored icings, rather than the more traditional jelly or jam filling. This very quickly became the local favorite. For 35 years, Pittsburghers visited the Arcade Bakery just for this cookie, and it eventually became a regional treat that was well-known and adored by generations.
Eventually Kaufmann's became Macy's. Fortunately, Macy's kept the Arcade Bakery alive during their ownership. However, when Macy's folded in 2015, the bakery closed its doors for good and the iconic cookie disappeared. Years later, the recipe emerged at another legendary Pittsburgh bakery, Prantl’s. This local business was started by one of the original bakers from the beloved Arcade Bakery. As you can imagine, the Thumbprint Cookie still embodies that nostalgic feel of wandering Kaufmann’s Department Store.
As an homage to the Kaufmann Family, the Fallingwater Cafe opened the year by creating a new twist on the classic Thumbprint Cookie. Using the traditional cookie recipe, Fallingwater Chef Tom Shuttlesworth, who doubles as our baker, filled the 'print with Concord grape jelly and topped it off with two inches of Arcade-style icing; in this case peanut butter, creating the PB&J Thumbprint Cookie.
The Fallingwater PB&J Thumbprint Cookie
From the kitchen at Fallingwater, these delicious shortbread cookies filled to the brim with jam and covered in a decadent peanut butter frosting, these are perfect for any celebration – large or small. This recipe makes 12-18 cookies.
Thumprint Cookie Ingredients
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup shortening, room temperature
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (If you only have salted, that's fine, simply withhold the added salt)
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups flour (Cake if you've got it, but all-purpose is fine)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- With hand or table mixer, beat the sugar, salt, shortening and butter until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and extracts and beat until thickened.
- Stir in flour on low speed and mix just until a dough forms - the dough may be in chunks.
- Form the dough into balls using one rounded tablespoon per cookie. Roll in sprinkles or nuts as desired. We used multi-colored 'jimmies' or sprinkles for a lighthearted and fun presentation.
- Press your thumb into the dough ball for the thumbprint, lay on baking sheets and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes prior to baking.
- Bake for 15 minutes (never hurts to rotate halfway through for even baking) or until lightly golden on the bottom.
For the best texture:
- Beat the sugar and fats thoroughly; they can hardly be over-beaten.
- Flour should always be added and incorporated with as little “manipulation” or over-mixing as possible. Over-mixing leads to forming strands of gluten; these ultimately take away from the light texture that makes the cookie soft and crumbly.
Peanut Butter Icing Ingredients
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- Using a hand or table mixer beat these ingredients until light, fluffy and fully incorporated.
- Scrape the sides of your bowl as needed.
This should be about the right amount for the cookie recipe, but you should always feel free to make more. To assemble, spoon, pipe or scoop your preferred jelly into the 'print, then pipe or dollop your icing on top. Voila!