Well. It’s official. Summer is over, and with it, so is cherry season.
I know cherry season has actually been over for some time, but all the other fruit coming through my kitchen this summer has kept me sufficiently distracted. This week though I suddenly realized that it was fall and my beloved cherries were long gone. Apples and pears are still around, so don’t worry, I’ll survive, but it’s still a real bummer.
Fortunately, cooler weather brings with it the season of warm ovens, and one of the best things to do with a warm oven is bake cookies! I swear the oven just happened to be on because of the weather, so I was forced to oblige and bake some cookies.
Lucky for me, the beginning of fall also means the beginning of dried fruit season. I must admit that I’m not actually a big fan of raisins, but that doesn’t stop me from adding plenty of dried fruit to my baking. I use dried cherries or dried cranberries in place of raisins in almost all baking recipes, especially cookies. What better way to mourn the end of summer and cherry season than to make cookies with some tart chewy dried cherries?
My boss knows my fondness for dried fruit, so when she went on a business trip to Japan recently she returned with bags full of dried figs and cherries for me. Let me tell you, those cherries were some of the best i’ve ever had. Most dried cherries you buy in the store are sweetened to taste like candy, but these cherries were just dried in their natural state and had the most amazing bright tart and just-sweet-enough flavor. I knew I would have to find a special way to put them to good use, and I couldn’t think of any better way than to chop them up with dark chocolate and almonds in a crisp buttery shortbread cookie.
To make sure these ingredients were well distributed throughout the cookie I pulsed everything in the food processor while combining the sugar and butter. I think that it would have been better texturally if I’d waited to add theses “extras” until I added the flour. The flavor is absolutely amazing; the chocolate, cherries, and almonds marry perfectly together; but I think I would have preferred juuust slightly larger pieces of everything to be able to taste each ingredient individually as well as all together. In the recipe below I made this small change and noted that these ingredients should be pulsed with the flour, not earlier. Either way though, these cookies are crisp and buttery and ever so slightly salty, with a perfect combination of bitter dark chocolate, chewy tart cherries, and crunchy nutty almonds.
If you cant find unsweetened dried cherries, sweetened will work just as well. These cookies are perfect for fall but the flavors will translate well any time of year. I even think that these could make an excellent (and beautiful) addition to your holiday cookie tray.
Dark Chocolate, Cherry, & Almond Shortbread Cookies
3/4 cups sliced almonds
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoons coarse salt
3/4 cups dried cherries (unsweetened if available)
3/4 cups good dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (or dark chocolate chips)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup coarse raw sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Spread almonds in an even layer on a baking sheet, and toast almonds for 5 to 10 minutes, checking frequently that they don’t burn. They should smell super nutty and be just barely beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.
In a food processor, combine butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt; process until smooth and well blended. Add flour, chocolate, cherries, and almonds, and pulse until just combined and beginning to hold together. If you don’t have a food processor you could do this with a pastry blender, or even an electric mixer, but you’ll need to chop the cherry, chocolate, and almonds ahead.
Place the dough in the center of a 16 inch long sheet parchment paper. Plastic wrap would work too. Form dough into an 12-inch-long round log; and roll parchment up around it tightly to help get it smooth and perfectly round. There should be roughly 2 inches of extra parchment on either end; twist the ends up until tight and fold them over. Freeze the log until firm, at least 30 minutes (or up to 1 month).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. If desired, let the dough soften for about 15 minutes and roll entire log in coarse sugar to coat. Cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices and transfer to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.