Spiced cherry and almond cookies

Are you planning edible gifts for Christmas this year? These spicy cherry cookies are a worthy addition to any hamper. The dough is spiced to the hilt, with dried cherries, orange zest and almonds mixed through. These all combine to make your home smell as if I accidentally killed Santa and baked him to hide the evidence.

Use dried cranberries or currants if cherries are hard to track down. They’re not the easiest dried fruit to find in Australia, although I do see it more often closer to Christmas. Resting a day or so before baking produces a superior cookie in flavour and texture. So patience my friend, is required. It helps that I’m never tempted to eat raw biscuit dough. I’m still on a baking break at the moment but figured that you might have plans to bake for the silly season and this recipe is just too good not to share!

Cook longer if you like crunchy cookies or make them as I like it with a crisp outer edge and soft centre. I found the ones I baked for longer seemed to have their spiciness muted as if the extended time in the oven had suffocated the flavour somehow. It keeps well in the freezer so I sometimes wrap up the raw dough in cylinders of baking paper to slice and bake from frozen anytime.

I bought an old fashioned ice cream scoop just to get evenly sized cookies for gifting. Having said that, my friends shouldn’t expect any edible presents from me this year. It’s getting close to beach time and no one needs these buttery cookies on their thighs. So by restraining myself, that’s an act of love too right?

Be forewarned, it’ll be hard to stop at just one. Even once you know that no Santas were harmed in the making of these.

Spiced cherry and almond cookies
Very loosely based on The New York Times Chocolate Chip cookie

Feeds: Makes about 30 medium sized cookies
Start cooking: 1-2 days beforehand for best results or 2 hours before eating if impatient

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams x unsalted butter, softened
  • 150 grams x white sugar
  • 200 grams x brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon x vanilla extract
  • 2 x eggs
  • 400 grams x plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon x baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon x baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon x salt
  • 1 tablespoon x ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon x ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon x ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon x ground cloves
  • 150 grams x dried cherries, roughly chopped (or whole cranberries or currants)
  • Zest x one orange
  • 200 grams x raw almonds, roughly chopped (or slivered almonds)
  • 50 grams x raw almonds for garnishing (optional)

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla extract, for 5 minutes until pale.
  2. Beat the eggs one at a time into the creamed mixture.
  3. Sift together the flour, spices, baking soda, salt and baking power and fold into the butter-sugar mixture with a wooden spoon until just combined.
  4. Stir orange zest, chopped cherries and almonds into the dough.
  5. Cover the dough and chill in the fridge for at least 24 hours before baking, but preferably 48 – 72 hours.
  6. When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 170 C / 340 F.
  7. Line two baking sheets with baking paper or silicon mat.
  8. Take the chilled dough out of the fridge and scoop onto baking trays, leaving at least an inch around each cookie for room to spread.
  9. Garnish each cookie scoop with slivered almonds if desired.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes for chewy cookies. For crisp ones, it’ll be closer to the 20 minute mark but as always, it depends on how large your portions are.
  11. Cool cookies on the tray for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to firm up further.

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