Sunday, October 30, 2011

Best Cookies, Ever (Chocolate, Cherry, Almond Cookies)

We agreed to watch the boys for Seth and Sarah over the weekend, to give them some much-needed free time to complete some household projects. I had once set the goal that, every time the boys came to visit, I wanted to have a different cookie recipe baked and ready for them. That dream did not live long, but I guess it's the thought that counts. This Saturday, I wanted to be ready for them.

It's the only way to be sure

The boys have fairly accepting palates. Ben won't tolerate bell peppers for some reason, and he objected to the zucchini I added to his macaroni and cheese, but ate the carrots and green beans. Dylan is relatively indiscriminate. In the past I've gotten them to wolf down roasted Brussels sprouts and they actually look forward to sushi, so I figured that any cookie recipe would meet with success.

Our helpful kitchen staff
I settled on chocolate cherry almond cookies because I love the combination, but that's really just a matter of ingredients. Cooking generally encourages experimentation, but baking requires more precise ratios for success, so picking a base recipe is important. I chose the alleged Neiman Marcus recipe.

A first discovered this recipe, chain letter and all, from a coworker when we lived in Massachusetts. I was quick to check Snopes and argued that, since the story was inauthentic, surely the recipe would prove similarly disappointing, but he persisted. Reader, I was so wrong. If you've only ever had standard chocolate chip cookies, "Neiman Marcus cookies," as we call them, will change your life. They're absolutely delicious. The secret ingredient is fine-ground oats, which add chewiness and toothsome bite to take them well beyond the realm of the typical chocolate chip cookie.

Additional special guest stars

So, with some enthusiastic help from the nephews, we mixed up a fresh batch with the added twist of dried cherries and almonds. Nature added the twist of our first snowfall for the year before Halloween. In the end it was to our benefit though, as the boys soon tired of Teen Titans and Thundercats, and A herded them outside to throw snowballs while I finished shaping cookies and baking them in the oven.

Too soon!
Warm from the oven the cookies are simply irresistible. The addition of almonds and cherries boosts the crunch and adds a dark, fruity sweetness that isn't overbearing. Switching to darker, higher-quality chocolate and whole grain flour also elevates the flavor to a more sophisticated level, while also making the cookie slightly more guilt-free and using large chunks of chocolate rather than little chips means more chocolate in every bite.

Ready for launch

Chocolate cherry almond cookies

A word of warning: if you have an electric mixer, use it. I'm normally a fan of cooking things the hard way, but this batter is like mixing cement. Take any help you can get.

2 cups of whole oats
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup granulated sugar, scant
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
8 oz. 70% cacao chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup almonds, slivered
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat your oven to 375° F. Pour the oats in a food processor or blender and pulsing until reduced to a fine powder, about 30 seconds.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and stir to mix.

Batter up

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into your creamed sugar mixture and stir to incorporate. You may find it helpful to add the dry mix in two batches.

Fold the chocolate, almonds, and cherries into your batter until evenly mixed. Scoop up about two tablespoons and roll into balls. Place formed cookies onto cookie sheets about two inches apart.

Much heavier than it looks
Bake for 10 minutes or until just golden on top. Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes and serve warm.

Baked cookies can be stored in a ziplock bag or covered dish, I usually include a slice of sandwich bread to help them retain moisture. Blitz in the microwave for 5-10 seconds to restore gooey, melting softness.

Sweet success

Cheers!

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Love the pictures of your test kitchen helpers!

J said...

Thanks!

They're awesome kitchen assistants and great photo subjects. I'll definitely be bringing them out for "sweeps week," as it were, in the future. ;)