Chocolate-Cherry Clusters

Yesterday was a day of two wonderful discoveries:

First, while searching for a buffalo chicken dip recipe (shut up), I discovered yet another fabulous food blog, The Bitten Word. I am trying not to get discouraged at the vast sea of incredibly worthwhile food blogs to read, and I am hoping that you won’t ditch me for these guys, even though they are cuter, funnier and way more talented than yours truly. Make room for us both! (Not that they’re gunning for my ten readers, what with their boatload of fancy blogging awards). Their blog is based on the brilliant idea that I should have thought of ten years ago of cooking recipes from all their food magazines. Leave it to me to hone in on the only two WT recipes on the whole entire blog! Most of their food is rather fancy schmancy, and I look forward to trying lots of their recipes. Definitely check them out.

We will be joining friends for dinner tonight, along with our kids, and I was asked to bring a dessert. My standard go-to kid-friendly dessert is my now famous Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, the only chocolate chip cookies worth making. However, I wanted something different (and dare I say, easier) this time, and that led me to wonderful discovery number two, courtesy of wonderful discovery number one, Chocolate-Cherry Clusters. This recipe was originally published in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine (Jan/Feb 2011). I had no idea such a periodical existed! How long has this magazine been around? And Martha is using CORN FLAKES in a recipe now? Mind. Blown. Clearly prison has brought her back to her blue collar roots, to which I say, “Hooray!” Just don’t cross over into Miracle Whip territory, Martha.

Chocolate-Cherry Clusters

Everyday Food (January/February 2011)

Makes 18
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes + cooling time

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cornflakes
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (1 3/4 cups)

1. In a large bowl, break cornflakes into small pieces with your fingers. Add cherries and toss together.

2. Place 2/3 cup chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally until chocolate melts, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add remaining chocolate, stirring until melted. (Alternately, microwave the chocolate in a bowl in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted).) Pour over cornflake mixture and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold just until cereal and cherries and completely coated.

3. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto two parchment-lined baking sheets and let set in a cool, dry place, 1 hour. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 week.)

My friend referred to this type of cookie as a “Haystack” cookie, something I’ve never heard before. These are easy but messy to make, and not very pretty. The kids seemed to like them, though, and as a quick last minute dessert, it’s a nice option.  I just love the idea of mixing a few ingredients together and calling it dessert — such a departure from my usual production. As luck would have it, we have another last minute dinner invitation tonight, so I am planning to make them again, and maybe I’ll try adding a little coconut to jazz things up.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Like many of you, I am devoted fan of the traditional back-of-the-bag Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe. It is universally loved and consistently satisfying. I had no interest whatsoever in cheating on this recipe, and I was faithful to it for all of my life.

But then this Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe caught my eye. Cook’s Illustrated (which I affectionately call Cooking for Geeks) is my favorite source of recipes and inspiration. Even though they test every recipe to the nth degree, I often find myself modifying things with my own special touch. But not this recipe, no, never! I follow every instruction to the letter, with serial killer precision, and the results are perfect every single time. Yes, it is a bit fussier and a wee bit more work, but the results are well worth it. Please try it and let me know what you think.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 16 cookies.   Published May 1, 2009.   From Cook’s Illustrated.

Why this recipe works:

Our perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe had to produce a cookie that would be moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness. Melting the butter gave us the chewiness …(more)

Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. For our winning brand of chocolate chips, see related tasting.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
  4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
  5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.