dried cherry cookies

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. 

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cherry, almond, & dark chocolate shortbread cookies

Well. It’s official. Summer is over, and with it, so is cherry season.

cherry, almond, & dark chocolate shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

cherry, almond, & dark chocolate shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

cherry, almond, & dark chocolate shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

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?

cherry, almond, & dark chocolate shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

cherry, almond, & dark chocolate shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

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.

cherry, almond, & dark chocolate shortbread cookies | Brooklyn Homemaker

Dark Chocolate, Cherry, & Almond Shortbread Cookies

  • Servings: 24 to 36 -ish
  • Print
adapted from Martha Stewart

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.