Sunday, August 1, 2010

double chocolate cherry cookies

For years, I turned my back on the Black Forest Cake. Perhaps it was my loyalty to the Shirley Temple (my preferred cherry medium as a child); perhaps it was my general aversion to chocolate-fruit desserts (fruit, in most cases, seemed only to take up valuable chocolate real estate). Either way, the Black Forest concept struck me as particularly ill conceived.

I don’t know when things changed—but partial credit for my about-face must go to the Chukar Cherry. M. and I discovered Chukar Cherries while walking through Pike Place Market last August. Toward the end of the market, post-fish acrobatics and Beecher cheese curds, we paused in front of the Chukar display: bags filled with different varieties of dried cherries (Bing, Rainier, and Columbia River Tart—three more reasons to live in Seattle), in assorted sweet and savory combinations.

As is their nature, the salesclerks asked if we would like to try something, and, as is our nature, we said yes. M. and I proceeded to sample our way through the entire collection: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chipotle, and cocoa-dusted. We left with at least three bags, and, in my case, a newfound appreciation for the chocolate-cherry combination.

So, where does the Black Forest Cake rank, after my Chukar epiphany? To be honest, I’m not sure; I've yet to taste one since that day. But, in the meantime, I have devoted considerable effort to exploring the flavor combination in another form: the chocolate-cherry cookie.

Here are two variations on the same theme. I’m partial to the first cookie—I love the addition of milk chocolate (another recent awakening), and the flavors seem in better balance. But both are delicious, and loyal to the Chukar spirit.

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Cherry Double-Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet

I upped the salty quotient of this cookie, using a liberal half-teaspoon and substituting sea salt.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 oz fine-quality milk chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup dried sour cherries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating until combined well. Add vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Add chocolate chunks, pecans, and cherries and mix until just incorporated.

Drop 2 level tablespoons of dough per cookie about 2 inches apart onto 2 ungreased large baking sheets. With dampened fingers, flatten cookies slightly.

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until puffed and set, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool. [Cookies keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 5 days.] Makes about 25 to 30 cookies.

***

Double Chocolate Cherry Truffle Cookies
Adapted from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle, by Kate Zuckerman

For me, the coffee flavor was a little overwhelming here; it takes at least a day for the flavors to marry, and even then I would have been happy with a little less espresso in my cookie.

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I sprinkled some sea salt on top)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (62 to 70 percent cocoa solids)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground coffee, or less according to your taste
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup (4.5 ounces) dried cherries, chopped (I prefer them whole)

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow chocolate to cool for 10 minutes.

In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat until the eggs triple in volume and hold the lines of the whisk, about ten minutes. Add the coffee and beat for another minute.

With the mixer on low speed, add the melted chocolate; beat until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients, chocolate chips, and dried cherries. Beat until just combined. Finish mixing by hand with a rubber spatula; the batter will be very runny. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, or up to two days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using two tablespoons, scoop the batter into large mounds arranged 2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies puff in the oven and fall a bit once removed. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets. Makes 30 large cookies.