If you didn’t catch Ashley Rodriguez’s October Not Without Salt post featuring cherry chocolate chip cookies, you really missed out—and I say that not just because of the killer cookie recipe, but also because of the thoughtful writing on perfectionism and art and creative work that surrounded it. A riff on Ashley’s previously posted THE chocolate chip cookie, these cherry chocolate beauties are part toasted almond flour, part wheat (or, in our case, einkorn); made with ground flax and water instead of an egg; and studded with cherries and chopped chocolate throughout.
Tim and I have made them three, count them, three, times over the last week: once, after 10 p.m., when one of us said she had a cookie craving and the other could not be talked out of both going to the kitchen immediately in response; second, because the first batch had proven so good, we had to make more when that last morsel was gone; and third, during this past weekend, amidst the tree-buying, pine-hanging, movie-watching merriment that the beginning of December brings.
Saturday, we got our tree. In 60-something degrees on the first day of December. The nice guys at Nashville Giving Tree, a very cool project organized by a local church to give 100% of tree purchase proceeds to help single moms in need, tied the six-foot evergreen to the roof of our car wearing flip flops and shorts, with Christmas carols playing in the background.
When we got home, Tim and I moved the sofa to clear space in the living room, he untied and then carried the tree through the front door, I took off my sweater and we gathered all the extraneous tree branches to tie together and hang in clusters anywhere we could: on the front porch, over the mantel, outside the kitchen door, from the window in the dining room. Within an hour, we discovered one of the greatest side effects of living in less than 1,000 square feet in the bottom level of a little brick house: the fresh, clean smell of the forest covered every dot and tittle, stamping our place with the inviting sense of the Christmas season throughout. Of course, then, we discovered the other side effect, and, despite 20 straight minutes of hunting down pine needles with the vacuum cleaner, I can still say with almost certainty that come two months from now, when we’re all thinking valentines, not Christmas cards, and spring seems right around the corner, I’ll still be finding needles falling out of my pockets or peeking out beneath our rug.
Still though, there’s nothing like a real tree. A real tree and homemade burlap stockings and your favorite Christmas movie on TV (like it was Saturday night). The only thing better, if you ask me, is having a plate of these cherry chocolate chip cookies by your side.
I know there’s no shortage of cookies this holiday season, no more than a shortage of gift-buying or present-shopping or travel plans or Christmas music in the car. Turn any direction, and there’s likely to be a new biscotti or rugelach or gingerbread recipe standing there, staring you in the face. You’ve got your personal favorites. You’ve got a million more to try. I get it.
So just promise me you’ll add these to the list? Next time you’re looking for a twist on an old classic, maybe when it’s 10 p.m. and a craving hits, you’ll be glad to have these waiting, December or not, trust me. Oh, and speaking of trust, if you don’t already know Ashley’s site, now would be a good time to check it out. Not Without Salt is one of my favorite spots online, partly for the surefire recipes, partly to hear about Ashley’s dates with her husband, but mostly for the beautiful, trust-filled voice with which she writes.
Cherry (or Apricot!) Chocolate Chip Cookies
Lightly adapted from Ashley Rodriguez at Not Without Salt
Makes around two dozen cookies
About the flax seeds: I know they’re not as much a pantry staple as eggs in the fridge, so, if you’re in a pinch, by all means substitute an egg for the flax and water. We tried both ways (eggs vs. flax/water mix), and the flax version won us over hard. With flax, you’ll get a flatter, crisper cookie; with an egg, you’ll get something slightly more traditional.
1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground (I [i.e., Tim] ground the flax seeds in a mortar and pestle, but note it takes some muscle)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (we like the results best when we slowly warm the butter in a pan on the stove until it’s almost fully melted; room temperature also works nicely)
1 cup coconut palm sugar (or you could use another sugar)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal, toasted (350* for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden)
1/4 cup einkorn flour (or white whole wheat flour, which is what Ashley used)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cherries or chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped dark chocolate (we chopped up an 3.5-ounce 85% dark bar)
Pre-heat your oven to 350*.
Combine the ground flax and water in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and the sugar until smooth and light in color. Stir in the cocoa powder. Add the flax mixture, along with the vanilla extract. Stir until well combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the toasted almond meal, einkorn (or wheat) flour, baking soda and salt. Add this to the wet ingredients. Just before the mixture all comes together, add the dried cherries (or apricots) and chocolate. Stir until well combined.
Place spoonfuls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving two to three inches of space around each (we got six to eight cookies on each baking sheet, to give you an idea). Bake at 350* for 12 to 15 minutes or until just golden around the edges and the center still unset. Cool on a wire rack.