I don’t do recipe blogs often, okay, this is only the second one ever. (Here’s the first, Brine for Thanksgiving Turkey.) I usually save a great recipe for use in a book, but oatmeal cookies with cherry and dark chocolate is a winning combination I find irresistible. All the good things in life: Oats, brown sugar and butter, with bright pops of cherry and melting not-quite-bitter dark chocolate.
This recipe is adapted from several sources: Betty Crocker Ultimate Cookie Book, additional methodology from Alton Brown’s Good Eats Volume 2, and my own preference for easy to find ingredients, and techniques that are worth the effort in the final result.
The recipe base from Betty Crocker is my preferred because it is equal parts oats to flour. A lot of recipes it’s half the oats to flour, which to me is a butter cookie with some oats, not an oatmeal cookie. I want that taste of oats and enough chew for my lizard brain to think “this is healthy” while it overlooks the butter and sugar.
Oats are in fact good for us. Quick oats have had some of the vitality washed out of them, but I amp up their flavor by using Alton Brown’s trick of toasting them in the oven first. And I cheated with the dried cherry. It’s hard to find and I was short on time, so I used cherry-juice infused cranberries, which are easy to find and more tart. The base cookie is so good, right on the edge of butterscotch – so chewy and rich – you could also use any favorite dried fruit that had some tartness to it – like plain cranberry (Craisins) or orange-infused plums.
Line cookie sheet(s) with foil for easy clean up later. Get out eggs to come to room temperature. Ditto the butter. No waste trick: Unwrap the cold sticks and drop them into your mixing bowl, then wipe the inside of the butter wrappers on the foil. Or mist the foil very lightly with cooking spray.
- 2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla *See below
- 2 eggs
- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant!), toasted
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt – increase to 1 teaspoon if the butter was unsalted
- 1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips, lightly chopped
- 1 cup dried cherries or cherry infused cranberries (not glace or maraschino), chopped
Makes 70-80 cookies if using a teaspoon, 60 if a tablespoon
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the oats by spreading on an ungreased cookie sheet (foil not needed) and popping into the oven for 8-10 minutes while the oven is preheating. Set a timer or they’ll go over to the dark side. They can cool until you’re ready for them.
Chop the chocolate chips lightly to create some shavings and smaller pieces while leaving some intact. Chop the cherries so they are at least halved. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Combine in a mixing bowl the brown sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs. Cream together.
Add the salt and baking powder to the flour (you can sift together, but I’m lazy and use a fork to disperse them a little bit into the flour).
With the mixer on medium, slowly add half the oats, then half the flour, then the remaining oats and the remaining flour. Mix until everything is well blended. The dough will hold its shape. Finally, with the mixer on low or by hand, add the cherries and chocolate and thoroughly incorporate but don’t overmix.
You can either form 1-1/2 inch balls by rolling lightly in your hands, or use soup sized spoons to employ a quenelle technique and drop them onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. (In my pictures I got them a bit too close together.) Gently flattening the cookie will make them less rustic in appearance. This is totally me, but the second time I made them I also lightly salted the cookies before they went into the oven, but then I like a little salt hit with chocolate.
Bake 10-14 minutes, looking for the edge against the sheet to be a deep golden brown, and a uniform golden brown across the top of the cookie. When you touch it very lightly in the center the cookie won’t give way very much. Since these are oatmeal, crunchy cookies will soften in storage, so I err on the side of overdone. But underdone is still delicious – your preference!
If you’ve used foil, lift the whole batch off the hot cookie sheet for cooling. If not, let the cookies cool to the point that they’ll release easily from the cookie sheet. You might find it necessary to sample a cookie to assess their doneness and coolness and overall tastiness, you know, before you risk sharing with others. Quality control. Just sayin’.
FYI, Cookie sheets should be cool before you use them for another batch.
These cookies also freeze beautifully.
Swaps for Fat and Sugar
When I make a recipe for the first time, I usually stick with the full fat, full sugar options. But second time around I’ll start looking for ways to reduce the impact. If I’m desperate for a treat but watching the calories vigorously, I would do all of these. But most of the time I’d definitely swap out the eggs because it’s so easy to do, quicker, and I’ve never perceived a difference in the results.
- I don’t recommend it overall because it totally changes the texture of the cookie, but you can swap 1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce plus two tablespoons flour for 1/2 cup of butter. Cookie texture wil be a spongier and cake like and you might need to cook them up to 25% longer. Swapping for butter takes practice. Have a look at the HelloGiggles advice here. (My attempt with this swap took 16 minutes baking time.) This is a great swap for any baked good that calls for oil, like a brownie or cake mix.
- 1/2 cup nonfat liquid egg (e.g. Reddiegg) for 2 eggs. I can’t tell the difference in baking, you should totally do this whenever you can.
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar artificial sweetener blend (e.g. Truvia Brown Sugar or Brown Sugar Splenda) for 1 cup of the brown sugar. I’ve found that sugar substitutes sometimes react too little or too much with the leavening so I always use some real sugar as well. Also, while equally sweet, the missing mass of the 1/2 cup of sugar could mean a higher butter to sugar ratio and a wetter batter. While this is a good swap to try if sugar is something you’re watching, it takes practice to figure out what works for you.
The sugar or butter swaps mean a stickier dough that won’t spread as much in cooking. I found that pressing each cookie down so it wasn’t as rounded helped them bake through and get a little less cakey and more crispy. Refrigerating the dough for about 10 minutes helped get the dough off the spoons.
Using an online calculator, I got these numbers:
74 calories, 3g fat, 3mg sodium, 11g carb, 1g fiber, 7g sugar, 1g protein.
With swaps for sugar, egg, and butter as described above:
53 calories, 2g fat, 4mg sodium, 9g carb, 1g fiber, 5g sugar, 1g protein.
* A Short Treatise About Vanillin
For cookies I use “artificial” vanilla. Why? Because it’s not “artificial.” Vanilla comes from two sources: expensive orchids and inexpensive woods. Both botanical sources produce vanillin. Only the vanillin from orchids can be called “real” vanilla. Everything else has to be called “artificial” by law in the US.
Orchid vanilla tastes stronger, has a richer aroma, and is sensitive to heat and age. It’s preserved usually in an alcohol solution. Ideal for sauces, creams, and most sponge cakes where vanilla is the star of the party. Wood vanilla is durable, and keeps the flavor it has to high temperatures. It’s usually preserved without alcohol. Ideal for boiled candies, high heat custards, griddle cakes, and cookies. And hot coffee.
Wood vanilla is about one-sixth the cost of orchid vanilla. When buying “artificial” vanilla, check the ingredients to be sure it’s 100% vanillin.