cherries

dark chocolate chunk cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

I’m not sure if this is true where you live, but here in Brooklyn this has been the weirdest, craziest winter I’ve ever seen.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

To start with, up until very recently we’ve barely had anything even remotely close to an actual “winter”. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but on Christmas eve it was almost 70 degrees outside. On Christmas day we had to open all the windows in the house while I made dinner, but with the oven on all day we were still all overheated and sweaty by dinner time, even with the open windows.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts | Brooklyn Homemaker

After Christmas it was more of the same. Temperatures didn’t dip below freezing until well after the new year, but even then snow flakes were nowhere in sight. Having grown up and lived in New York State for my entire life, this is the latest and longest I’ve ever waited to see flakes of frozen water fall from the sky.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Then, practically out of nowhere, we got dumped on.

A few days before it happened they mentioned the possibility of a blizzard on the news. As the day of the blizzard grew nearer, the predictions grew bleaker and more serious. They even named the storm the same way they name hurricanes. Winter storm Jonas. Since when do we name winter storms?
By the morning before Jonas came to town, they were practically predicting the end of the world, by snow and freezing and ice.

I’ve been around this block before though, this unpredictable New York State weather block, so I took the impending “snowpocalypse” with a grain of salt.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Then it hit us. I checked the window just before bed last Friday night, and saw that a few flakes were just beginning to stick. I honestly expected that I’d wake the next morning to find an inch or so of accumulation, and turn on the news to hear apologies and oopsies from our local meteorologists. It’s happened before.

My alarm woke me early Saturday morning, and before I started to get ready for work I checked the window. I suppose I shouldn’t have been, but I was shocked to see that we already had about six inches on the ground, with plenty more on the way. Part of me thought it wouldn’t keep up though, and I had to go in to work anyway, so I went about my day. It wasn’t until I got to work, my beard covered in snow, that I started to realize it wasn’t letting up. It was getting worse. Some of my coworkers couldn’t even get in for the day because the trains couldn’t get through.

By noon the governor had issued a state of emergency and they were announcing bus closures and travel bans. Not long after that the police commissioner sent out a tweet saying that anyone found driving on the roads in NYC would be arrested. Staff at work, myself included, started to panic and since there weren’t many customers to speak of, we closed early and trudged our way home while we still could. Luckily the train line I live off of runs underground. There were delays, but it was still running. I walked home from the train down the middle of the street, since most sidewalks in my neighborhood hadn’t yet been shoveled.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

The next morning the clouds parted and the sun came out, but the sidewalks still weren’t shoveled, the intersections not clear to pedestrians, and the streets were barely plowed. I was practically snowed in, and with nothing to do and nowhere to go, I figured I may as well bake some cookies.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

I didn’t want to brave the streets so I dug through the cupboards and took inventory of what we had in the house. My mom gave me a big bag of shelled walnuts the last time I went to visit, and I had an extra bag of dried cherries leftover from my Christmas pork roast.  I didn’t have any chocolate chips in the house, but I did have a big ass bar of 72% dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s. (incidentally, I’m not sure if you have a TJ’s near you, but I seriously can’t sing enough praises for the price and quality of their chocolate. I generally try to avoid specific product endorsements, but their “Pound Plus” bars are a dream come true to someone who loves chocolate almost as much as he loves to bake.)

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

In keeping with the extremely unusual and unpredictable nature of this winter, it’s less than a week since our “snowmageddon” and it’s melting away as quickly as it came. There will be nothing left but memories and instagram photos in a few days more.

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Whether you’re snowed in or just want a sweet treat, these cookies are THE BOMB!

The cookie itself is buttery, soft, chewy, delicately salty, and perfect in every way (Thanks Martha). Twice as much brown sugar as white ensures a tender chewy cookie that stays soft for days. Rather than the traditional chocolate chips though, this cookie is loaded with pockets of rich and melty bittersweet dark chocolate; studded with bits of chewy, sweet, tart, and jammy dried cherries; and peppered with just enough crunchy, toasty, nutty, earthy, ever-so-slightly-bitter walnuts to tie it all together. These three ingredients were seriously made for each other.

What are you still doing here? Go preheat that oven and take that butter out to soften!

dark chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries and walnuts

Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Dried Cherries and Walnuts

  • Servings: makes approximately 32 cookies, depending on scoop size
  • Print
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup chopped walnuts
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar (light would work fine too)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups dark chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup chopped dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange walnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer, and toast for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until they smell toasty and nutty. Cool and roughly chop.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars and beat on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well combined, for about 1 minute. Add flour, mix until just combined, then stir in the chocolate, cherries, and walnuts just until evenly distributed.

Scoop dough out using a portion scoop and place cookies about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I like big cookies so I used a #24 scoop, which works out to about 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie. You can make smaller cookies, and you’ll end up with more individual cookies, but you’ll need to reduce the baking time by a few minutes. Alternatively you can make larger cookies with a smaller yield, but you may need to extend the baking time by 2 or 3 minutes.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, around 11 to 13 minutes for 3 tablespoon sized scoops. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week. 

Oatmeal Cookies with Cherries, Cocoa Nibs & Chocolate

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.

Oatmeal cookies with cherries, cocoa nibs & chocolate | by Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

Oatmeal cookies with cherries, cocoa nibs & chocolate | by Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

Oatmeal cookies with cherries, cocoa nibs & chocolate | by Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

Oatmeal cookies with cherries, cocoa nibs & chocolate | by Brooklyn Homemaker

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?

Oatmeal cookies with cherries, cocoa nibs & chocolate | by Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

Oatmeal cookies with cherries, cocoa nibs & chocolate | by Brooklyn Homemaker

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 | by Brooklyn Homemaker

Oatmeal Cookies with Cherries, Cocoa Nibs & Chocolate Chips

  • Servings: About 2 dozen, depending on size
  • Print
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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.