Monday, September 19, 2011

Cherry-Chocolate Ginger Cookies

First photoshop experience: air-brushing the gross stain off the pretty turquoise oven mitt. It looks perfect again!

I just googled my own name with the words “fall” and “melancholy,” and got 4190 hits. Enough said, right? Maybe almost literally enough said.

I do love the leaf smell, the cold nights, the deeply misted mornings, corduroys, soup, fresh bread, acorns, apples, my down vest, dead mosquitoes, bright skies, and the changing light against the changing trees. But I’m tired today. The weird ChopChop voting thing makes me insecure—like I’m finally showing up for the middle school party in knickers, and everyone else has already moved on to jodhpurs. It’s an old feeling, largely unrelated to the contest, I’m sure. Mostly I just miss the kids while they’re at school. I come at the pussycat with need so frank that he scrabbles away from my empty arms—unless he’s sleeping, and then he’s too lazy to move, so I can kiss my loneliness into his fur. The weekend barely gets started, it seems, and it’s over already. Sigh.

As always, I find myself expressing my love via the children’s lunchboxes, in the form of cookies. I always bake on Sundays, and heading into the week with a tin of cookies is simply good for my soul and sanity. Plus, the kids are around to help me, or at least to dart in in their jammies and nab still-warm cookies from the racks. These are favorites: sweet, a little spicy from the ginger, tart with cherries, and striated with chocolate. They are crunchy on the outside and a tiny bit soft in the center, which I like. And they’re fragrant and wheaty and gorgeous.

Cherry-Chocolate Ginger Cookies
Makes 4 dozen
Active time: 1 hour

This recipe is adapted from one in Heidi Swanson’s gorgeous, inspiring Super Natural Every Day. I have made the recipe exactly as written by her—with the spelt flour and the apricots—and the cookies were terrific. But I like cherries best, and so I like this version even more! These are small cookies, which I love. Then you can pull one from the tin without making a huge commitment.

2 cups spelt flour or whole-wheat pastry flour (I used regular whole-wheat flour this time)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
½ cup (1 stick) butter (I use salted), melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup molasses
2/3 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 large egg, well beaten
1 cup dried sour cherries (I love the ones from Trader Joe’s), chopped (or one cup dried California apricots, chopped)
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped/shaved (or use chips)
½ cup large-grain sugar (mine is Turbinado) or even just regular sugar works fine

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir the egg, molasses, sugar, and fresh ginger into the melted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dries, add the cherries, and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate. At this point, you are supposed to chill the dough for half an hour. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

Heat the oven to 350, and line two cookie sheets with Silpat liners (or parchment paper).

Scoop the dough into tablespoon-sized lumps (I really do love my dough-scooper for this), then tear each lump in two, roll each half into a ball, roll it in the coarse sugar, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave a little space: sometimes they bake up sort of squat and puffy, and sometimes they spread into broader, flatter cookies—I don’t know why. I get about 16 cookies to a sheet.

Bake the cookies two sheets at a time for 7-12 minutes (mine take about 11), until they puff up, darken a bit, and crack across the top. Cool on wire racks.

The cookies are good for lots of reasons.

Two kinds of ginger, for example.

Also: chocolate.

Cherries. And the fresh ginger. I kind of spaced and chopped it fine instead of grating it, but all seems well.

The recipe.

The dough, which is very stiff.

The cat, which is very lazy.

It could be that these are a pain to shape and bread in sugar, but I love it for some reason.

Unbaked cookie balls.

Cookies, baked. Sometimes they spread more, so I give them a bit of room.

Children, in pajamas.

I told him the funniest joke! 


  1. Melanie2:26 PM

    Fall and melancholia (is that even a word? oh well) are synonymous to me, as well. I have started, in recent years, embracing my cozy sweaters and appreciating the seasons of this wonderful region in which we live, and realize how beautiful a thing that we get to experience it each and every year! We read Dickinson, Emerson, and Thoreau, and, you know, we really get it! Because, well, it's right outside our windows! How incredibly awesome? I could go on and on, but I will exercise restrain!

    I will simply say that I, too, miss my girl when she is at school each and every day, and tomorrow I will make her these cookies and hope that she doesn't detect the cherries (because I'm sneaky like that)!

  2. aI love that cookbook, and these cookies are perfect for today. I will make them even though my daughter dislikes both ginger and dried fruit. (???) Maybe with the chocolate in there she won't mind. Very weird seeing as how she scarfs down kale and broccoli without flinching or grimacing or asking "What is this?" Voted for Chop Chop again, and I will enlist others to do so. Thanks Catherine!

  3. What I notice most about the early fall/late summer is the light. It comes at funny angles and worse, it's not even up when I'm walking with the boys to the bus stop at 6:50. Finn came up with a new season yesterday "Flummer." "It's closer into fall." The kids around here are still wearing shorts and t-shirts; corduroy's another six weeks into the future. I miss the boys when they're at school, but on September 1st, I had the pleasure of having Soren home sick for eight, long, tiring days. Fever, fatigue, a trip to the hospital and no food make for a very long stretch. I kept hoping he'd perk up so he could get back into the routine. The cookies look fantatic. I have a similarly messy triple ginger cookie recipe. Mmmm.

  4. Chocolate + dried cherries are one of my favorite combinations. Can't wait to try out this recipe!
    Am feeling a bit of back-to-school sadness myself. All of the excitement of First Day of Kindergarten is long gone and I'm left feeling bummed at my new lack of freedom. During the preschool years, time was elastic - showing up to school late/early/whenever...sometimes not even showing up at all if we felt like going to the zoo instead. It surprises me how much the inflexibility of the school year stresses me out.

  5. Love the cat photos. I would chase him around and try to love him too.

  6. These look wonderful! We made your raw energy bars for the first week of school, and your granola bars for the second week. So glad to have another lunchbox recipe!

  7. These look gorgeous, and I'm right there with you in the fall melancholy thing.... I'm not that great a cook, sort of nervous and self-consciously ungraceful, but your recipes make me laugh, which, weirdly, helps a lot.

  8. I haven't ever posted a comment before, (I don't think), just lurked and read and laughed since the Bringing up Ben days. I guess chocolate and cherry calling me gingerly from the kitchen will do that. Because it's the ground ginger I have a question about. Isn't 1.5 tablespoons quite a lot? I really want to try these, but am afraid they'll be hot due to that much ginger. Is it a typo, or should I take a deep breath and go for it.


  9. Thanks, guys. And tracyp, it's not a typo! And it's not too spicy. But what is a bit spicy is the fresh ginger, which you could cut back on. xo

  10. Yum! Fall is my favorite time of year. The melancholy lasts all year. My daughters (who are four, four, and one) and I made these cookies this afternoon. The big girls tasted everything we put in the bowls, including raw ginger and flour. (The ginger caused some red eyes as they choked out.."Yum!") The baby played around our feet and begged chocolate chips from me one at a time. The cookies are fantastic. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Anonymous6:53 PM

    okay, you and your fall/melancholy side by side appreciation coupled with affliction.... one of the things I relate MOST to you about you, Catherine... it's me, 2kidslife... and missing the kids, man, I hear you... second year of them both not being home full time, and man, it still sucks. But fall is also my favorite time of year! sniff sniff, no, no, don't mind me, I'm happy, really I am, wahhhhh, it's all good, the mix, and you embrace it, acknowledge it, and I dig that you do. Hugs.

  12. maxanyamom10:25 AM

    I so hear and echo your feelings about this autumnal season and school starting up again. My youngest is just in a preschool 3 days a week and just in the mornings. I admittedly enjoy the few hours at home alone without the constant chorus of "Mama, look at me!" But, your words just foreshadowed for me the day when they are both in school...all day long, every day of the week. Sigh - I will miss them, too...and our cat is a hunter type, not snuggly at all.

    Well - shaking that feeling off for a moment, I will be baking these today, I think. I may need to pick up some dried cherries, but these look really tasty. And, I've been sending bag lunches to school with my oldest. It sure would be nice to tuck a treat for him in there!

    A thought on why they spread or don't spread when baked. I really am not an authority on flours, but here is a theory. It looks like spelt has a "moderate amount of gluten" in it. It is not gluten free, yet maybe the gluten content is low enough that it spreads more than a wheat flour. I recall a Gluten Free edition of Alton Brown's Good Eats show. He made a version of chocolate chip cookies that were gluten free. He said that refrigerating the dough before baking helped the cookies to stand up in the heat of the oven and not spread as much. The idea is that the gluten provides the structural support for regular type cookies using wheat based flours, and without that gluten, the cookies flatten in the oven. Now, spelt does contain gluten, but maybe it is not enough to keep the cookies fluffy unless the dough gets that time in the refrigerator. (Oh - that was so boring to re-read. Sorry...please blame it on my scientific training in graduate school!)

  13. patty8:04 PM

    these cookies were off the hook! a perfect fall cookie.

  14. Heather G4:50 PM

    I've made these twice now but struggle to get anywhere near 48 biscuits. I must be making them too big. They are great though. I used treacle and dried cranberries.
    My father has just had a stroke and I took some into the hospital for him. Supplementing the wonderful hospital food. Seriously. I feel so connected to the world when I make recipes off the internet.

  15. Heather G4:53 PM

    Cancel that last comment. I re-read and you get 32 not 48. I think I managed 24 first batch and 30 second so not too bad.

  16. Anonymous11:16 PM

    These were aMAZing. I gotta say, though, I cut both kinds of ginger in half, and it was plenty of ginger for me and way too much for my kids (and they LOVE your gingerbread recipe). Fresh out of the oven these were like nothing I have ever experienced. I'm pretty sure it was nirvana. I thought there was something sort of satisfying about forming them and rolling them in the sugar, and it was definitely worth it taste and texture-wise.
    --misplaced mama

  17. Sooooo good! They just came out of the oven, and I've eaten 2 already. I made mine a bit bigger because I'm 6 months pregnant, and what pregnant woman wants a little cookie? I'd rather have 4 or 5 big ones. Thanks for the great recipe.