If you know me then you already know this, but if not, as you read this blog you’re going to learn my dark secret.
I like chocolate. Like, a lot. Most candy I can take or leave. Caramels are cool, especially the salty ones. Gummies aren’t really for me. I don’t want anything to do with nougat. Sugar for the sake of sugar isn’t where my heart is. Chocolate however, is a different story.
I hate the word chocoholic. It’s not a real word, and I’m pretty sure it’s a gateway word that, years later, made people think it was okay to say things like “staycation” or “chillax”. I also don’t like this word because it makes it sound like people who love chocolate have a real problem on their hands. I disagree. As far as I know, no one ever had to go to rehab for a chocolate addiction. Not even people with eating disorders can blame all their problems on this one single (delicious) food. Some studies even say that dark chocolate in moderation is good for your heart. I’m sure that this study was funded by the Hershey corporation, but I choose to believe that it’s proven scientific fact and that I’m doing my body a real favor.
When I was younger, my mom used to keep a chocolate bar in the middle drawer of her vanity, and every so often would sneak a little piece. I was always aware of that chocolate bar, and felt both taunted by the fact that it wasn’t for me, as well as totally bewildered that my mother would just keep it there, eating one small piece at a time, instead of just eating the whole thing over the course of an evening.
Now that I’m older, it all makes sense. I keep a bar of dark chocolate in my nightstand now, and as a non-smoker, sometimes you just need it in case of emergencies. My husband feels much the same way as I did when I was living with mom, but he stays away because he’s a milk chocolate fan, not because I’m selfish. I switched from milk to dark chocolate long ago, and prefer to spend a little extra on the real thing, rather than grabbing the Hershey’s dark. I think a lot of American’s don’t like the bitterness in dark chocolate, so Hershey’s makes dark chocolate SUPER sweet to mask that bitterness. I don’t know if it’s an acquired taste, or comes with a mature palette, but I love that bitterness.
These cookies are a chocolate lover’s dream. The original recipe I based these on was for oatmeal raisin cookies. I’ve never been a big fan of raisins so I always swapped the raisins for dried cranberries. Eventually I decided it might be fun to throw some chocolate chips in the mix, but the cranberries were a bit too tart to really go well with the chips. That didn’t discourage me from trying to add chocolate to these cookies though, so the next time I tried swapping dried cherries for the cranberries. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty sure I’m a genius, and I should probably be awarded with a medal of some kind. Chocolate and dried cherries in thick, chewy, buttery, just-sweet-enough, just-a-little-saltier-than-most cookies… Is it hot in here?
Since I’m not one to stop at perfection, the next time I made these (I’ve been toying with this recipe for years) I used bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet chips, and because I had them around anyway, I tossed in some cocoa nibs. I also reduced the cinnamon, but kept some of it for a slightly spicy mexican chocolate effect. Whoa. You guys. These cookies could not get any better. Even I have to stop somewhere. The dark sweet tart cherries go so well with dark chocolate, and the cocoa nibs add an amazing bitter crunchy fruity cocoa nuttiness. There aren’t words.
If you’re not as big a fan of dark chocolate as I am, you could definitely swap the bittersweet chocolate chips for semi-sweet or milk chocolate. If you don’t like cocoa nibs, or if you can’t find them, you can skip them. If you swapped them with a cup of toasted pecans I bet you’d be really glad you did. If you’re not familiar with cocoa nibs, never tasted them, or never heard of them, I beg you to try to find them. If you like dark chocolate, you’ll love them. They’re basically cocoa beans that have been hulled and roasted and chopped into small pieces. They’re one step removed from chocolate. The flavor is mostly dark and bitter, not sweet at all, and is a bit similar to a coffee bean. On their own, they’re too much, like eating a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder. In cookies, or oatmeal, or whatever you can think of, especially paired with real chocolate, they’re unbelievable. They’re crunchy and nutty and bring out the dark chocolate bitterness of any other chocolate they’re paired with.
So, these cookies. You should totally make them.
Before you do though, I’d like to talk to you about cookie scoops. If you don’t have a proper cookie scoop, you should think about getting one. If you make cookies regularly, you NEED one, or probably two or three. They make scooping and portioning your cookies really easy. They also come in really handy for portioning out cupcakes and muffins. If you fill the scoop completely and scrape off any excess all your cookies will be exactly the same size. They’ll bake more evenly since you won’t have any that are thicker or wider than the others, and bonus, they’ll look more professional because of the uniform size. They’re sometimes called portion scoops or portioners, and unlike ice cream scoops, they have numbers stamped on them. The numbers are usually on the scraping arm inside the scoop, but sometimes on the trigger, and they correspond to the number of scoops you can get out of a quart. So, the smaller the number on the scoop, the bigger the cookies will be. I think it makes sense to have a few different sizes if you’re a regular baker. For small cookies, I recommend something in the #60 range, medium #40, and large #20.
For these cookies I used a #24 scoop, which I’d describe as a medium-large size, and works out to be 1.5 oz, or 3 tablespoons.
Okay, so back to the cookies. They’ve got it all. Chocolate. More Chocolate. Tart, Sweet & Fruity Dried Cherries. Butter. Salt. Chewy Oaty Goodness. Come on guys, go preheat your oven, and behold their chewy chocolatey goodness:
Oatmeal Cookies with Cherries, Cocoa Nibs & Chocolate Chips
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed (you can use light, but dark adds something)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cherries (chopped if large)
1/2 cup cocoa nibs (optional)
1 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and remaining ingredients.
At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slightly less thick. Either way, heat oven to 350°F before you scoop the cookies, so that it’s fully heated when you’re ready to put them in.
The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time can vary), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.