Friday, February 11, 2011

Chocolate and Cherries

I was going to make these cookies way back at Christmas time, but I didn’t get around to them. I wish I could have, because of the three new holiday cookie recipes I did try one was pretty boring and the other two were complete duds. I had much more confidence that these cookies would be good, however, because they’re simply a variation of this recipe, which we love. I think the chocolate and cherry idea has a certain romantic feeling, so just about now is a good time to make some for your Valentine. I did.

I’m kind of pushing the chocolate and cherries (actually dried tart cherries) here, but he real stars of these cookies were the fresh black walnuts I put in them. They have a sort of fermented fruity flavor that permeates the cookie and enhances the chocolate and cherry flavors. I acquired these lovely things from my aunt and uncle, who live somewhat nearby and are the proud owners of black walnut trees.

Okay, so they’re not so proud of these vegetable beasts because they’re messy when they’re on your property and do not give up their tasty nut meat without a fight. It’s my understanding that my uncle is the one who took on the unenviable task of cracking open all the black walnuts (at least my aunt gave him the credit), and I am overwhelmingly grateful. I love them! (If you can get your hands on fresh nuts, keep them refrigerated or frozen so their oils have less of a chance of spoiling and creating off flavors.)

Like most drop cookies, these are very easy to make, especially if you can allow a stand mixer to do all the work. The batch is relatively small, so you can eat them all up right away without a lot of pesky leftovers. I tend to bake them in even smaller batches and freeze the remaining dough to use later. Fresh cookies are always best, and if you can eat these while they’re still warm, so much the better. The bittersweet chocolate is a little gooey, the cherries are soft and sweet-tart, and the black walnuts are crunchy, perfume-y and almost liqueur-like. That sounds sensual enough for a simple Valentine’s celebration to me.

Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies with Black Walnuts
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2007

You can use English walnuts if black walnuts are not available.

I recommend freezing dough, well-wrapped, to make small batches of fresh cookies on demand.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
½ cup dried tart cherries
½ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped black walnuts or English walnuts

1. In a medium-size bowl combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Stir together with a whisk.

2. Place sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until well blended and beginning to get fluffy, at least 1 minute.(Alternatively, you can beat by hand in a bowl with a spoon.) Add almond extract and egg and beat well.

3. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until blended. Stir in the dried cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.

4. (If time allows, keep the dough well-covered in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. I think cookie dough is improved by this little rest.) Preheat oven to 350 F. Scoop about 1 heaping tablespoon of dough at a time and roll it into a ball. Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

5. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. (They are great slightly warm).

Makes about 2 dozen small cookies. Keep leftovers well covered for a day or two.

Other recipes like this one: Apricot and Almond Cookies with White Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Chip and M&M Cookies (make them with Valentine-colored M&Ms)

One year ago: Stout Bread with Chocolate and Cherries

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