January 9, 2012

Chocolate Cranberry Chunk Cookies

I started this week off with a dilemma.  Although I got behind a bit during the holidays, I feel like I need to post at least once a week to remain a viable blog.  After all, I'm making money now-my first payment from the mucky-mucks who provide the advertising that frames this page will be here by the end of this month.  But there can be no clicks without content.  Problem is, I don't just write about food.  I read about it as well.  I've already gushed about Macheesmo on these pages but there is also Kayln's Kitchen, which has food so delectable I looked at it off and on for a month before I realized it was dedicated to the South Beach Diet, and The Food in My Beard, whose author must really take the whole "a picture is worth a thousand words" thing to heart-his step by step photos make any recipe seem easy.  I could easily list a dozen more, but I'm worried if I gave you that many great blogs to read you wouldn't come back.  The point of all this is that I ended up with a cooking conundrum.  I need content, but on all the days I allot to creative cooking (three days a week are for leftovers or such challenging meals as potatoes topped with chilli,) I filled the menu with other blogger's dishes.  Had they been written any length of time in the past I could have filed them under "Other People's Recipes" and hoped any slight modifications I made might make it worth reading about the process, but the things I am cooking are from recent enough posts that even fairly heavy modifications would still feel like theft.  Obviously, I could have scrapped one of the meals and replaced it with something of my own, but that isn't what I wanted to do.  African peanut stew sounds great.  Chicken tortilla soup simmering all day in the crock pot sounds wonderful.  I decided I would have to bite the bullet and find the cash to finish my half written review of the Salt Tears Coffeehouse and Noshery some lunch hour, and headed to the store.

I hadn't made it ten steps into the produce section when I saw them piled high with the other seasonal rejects.  Fresh cranberries; almost three dollars a bag just before Christmas, they were now a mere seventy-eight cents.  I pulled the pen from my pocket and began tweaking the list.  I may have locked down my dinners, but there was one area of the week I didn't have the slightest problem modifying. 

My work lunches are as follows:

A sandwich.  Typically turkey with mustard, mayo, pickles, and any stray bits of vegetable.  Occasionally a dinner leftover that is too slight to make another meal out of.

A healthy side.  Almost always a Gala apple, but if not something else in the fruit/vegetable realm.

And finally, to round it all off, JUNK.  Pop Tarts, pudding cups, Reese's.......I do my best to eat healthy meals, and the "troll toll" (so named because co-workers-the trolls in this equation-will occasionally steal this portion of my meal, tolerated only because it is healthier in the long run) is the one exception I allow.  But why clog my arteries with processed crap if I can make cookies instead. 

The following cookies are inspired by cookies I made last winter with the leftover berries from scratch cranberry sauce.

Boy is eager to help when it's sweets.
Chocolate Cranberry Chunk Cookies (Makes 24 cookies)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine, in a small bowl, the following dry ingredients:

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of oatmeal
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of ginger
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (regular salt is fine, but sea salt actually gives a noticeable taste to this cookie that helps add contrast to the sweet and sour elements)

It's nice to finally have a real mixer.
Once your dry ingredients have been combined, you can move on to the wet.  Boy decided to help me do this (both to try the Kitchenaid mixer Mother-in-Law got me for Christmas and so that I would reserve a few of the spare cookies for his lunch,) and he was confused as to why sugar would be a "wet" ingredient.  Unlike flour or oats, the sugar dissolves when creamed, so it is a part of the wet step.  Our very traditional wet ingredients (to be combined in a large mixing bowl) are as follows:

1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened

Cream these until the sugar has dissolved, and then add:

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat until smooth, and then add the dry ingredients gradually, making sure each amount is fully incorporated before adding more.  Once the dough is completely mixed and you can't see any dry flour it is time to prepare the chunks that give these cookies such a wonderful texture.  It all starts with a block of chocolate from the bulk section of your grocery store.  I went with dark chocolate, but just use whatever you prefer.  These would even be good with white chocolate if that's your thing.  Cut the block into irregular pieces, about double the size of industrially produced chocolate chips until you have around a cup of loosely packed chocolate bits.  Dump these into the mixing bowl and add a cup and a half of fresh cranberries.  You could probably make a decent cookie even with dried cranberries, but you would lose what makes these so special if you did.  If you've been using a wooden spoon or other people powered device up until this point, you can just stir this stuff in, but if you are using an electric mixer you need to switch to something manual at this point.  We want to keep our berries intact and our chocolate large, so any mechanical mixing is going to be to rough.  Even with a spoon, it is important to avoid crushing the fruit.  Stir until both the chocolate and the cranberry are evenly distributed, and then hand form balls of dough roughly the size of a golf ball.  There is no way this dough can be tamed into the neat tablespoon droplets you find in most cookie recipes.  Once you have a pan ready, throw it in for twelve to fourteen minutes-the chunks cause these to take just a bit longer to bake than most cookies.     When they come out they should still seem a little underdone in the center, but they will set if you give them three minutes on a cooling rack.  The cranberries that have stayed in one piece for this entire journey are the highlight of this cookie.  They just burst in your mouth with each bite, and both the baking process and the surrounding sugars will have transformed them into something juicy and sweet, with none of the bitterness of a raw berry.  Make these just once and I promise you'll find yourself keeping an eye out for cranberry sales at the end of each holiday season. 

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog. These cookies sound delish.