Thursday, 21 March 2013

Naughty black cherry & almond cookies

As I was rummaging in my kitchen cupboards I came across an unopened packet of dried black cherries: no doubt destined for a long-forgotten recipe. How could I use them up?

Cookies sprang to mind as, the weekend before, I'd eaten a very nice cranberry and sunflower seed cookie. Cherries also made me think of cherry bakewells with their almond flavour. I had the beginnings of a recipe.

The next stage was to find a basic cookie recipe to which I could add my flavourings. Eventually I settled on the Rachel Allen recipe for chocolate chip peanut butter cookies as the photo in the book looked like the texture I had in mind. To get the almond flavour, I substituted some of the flour for ground almonds, and replaced the vanilla extract with almond extract. And for even more flavour and a crunchy texture, I added flaked almonds.

So far, so good. And now comes the naughty bit! The dried black cherries seemed very dry and quite firm. I worried that they might become even harder during baking so decided to soak them first to make them plump and juicy. I needed something to enhance the cherry flavour and another rummage in the cupboards produced a bottle of blackberry gin - delicious when added to Cherry Eton Mess - yum!

Armed with my recipe, I headed to the kitchen. 

Look pretty good don't they? Actually, they were disappointing: more cakey than biscuit, the almond flavour was too strong, and they went soft very quickly. I'm sorry to say that most of them ended up in the bin.

Back to the drawing board and fast forward to last weekend.

This time I decided to stick with a tried and tested cookie recipe as the starting point: Felicity Cloake's Perfect Chocolate Chip. As we've made these a couple of times I knew they had exactly the right texture.

It's quite a stiff mixture and hard on the arm muscles when it comes to adding the flour, so I opted to use my friend the food processor and only mixed by hand when it came to adding the cherries and flaked almonds at the end. And the result?

Success! Maybe not quite as firm as the chocolate chip version but nice and chunky and the almonds give a good crunch. What a relief!

Given the right inspiration, I'll have a go at creating a recipe again but, just in case you'd like to try this one for yourself, here it is:

Naughty black cherry & almond cookies

100g dried black cherries
2 tablespoons (30ml) blackberry gin
150g butter, at room temperature
75g light brown sugar
75g granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
240g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
70g flaked almonds

1. A few hours before, chop the cherries. I cut them into quarters with scissors but you can cut them finer if you prefer a less chunky cookie. Put in a small bowl with 2tbsp blackberry gin. You can use any blackberry/cherry liqueur or a cordial if you prefer, though the alcohol will cook off during baking.
2. In a food processor, mix together the butter and sugars.
3. Add the egg and almond extract and mix.
4. Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda a few spoons at a time until just mixed.
5. Transfer to a bowl. Drain any excess liquid from the cherries and add to the mixture with the flaked almonds. Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed.
6. Chill overnight (or for a few hours) in the fridge.
7. On baking day, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas 5.
8. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
9. Using about a dessert-spoon full, lightly roll the mixture into balls with your hands. It will help if you wet your hands for this bit to prevent the mixture sticking too much. Place on a baking tray and flatten slightly, leaving space in between to allow the cookies to spread while baking. You should get about 15 cookies.
10. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just golden. I had to do 3 batches but you may need to do less if you have larger trays.
11. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


  1. Oh these look really delicious. I love anything cherry flavoured... Thanks for the recipe.
    M xxxx

  2. oooh - how delicious-looking!

    Nikki x

  3. They look great. The combination of cherry and almond is always a winner. x