Hello, everyone! Happy New Year! How is everyone doing? I know for many of us, this is not the start we wanted for 2021, but if we can at least find comfort that celebrating the mark of a new year on the 1st of January is just a convention, we can maybe take a little bit of courage and know that every new day can be a fresh start and the start of something new. We don’t have to set all of our hopes on the first day of the year, or the first month of the year for that matter. I know, like many of us, I am glad that 2020 is behind us, because it was a tough year on so many levels for so many people. We are all aching for change, and positive change at that. But I also know that just turning the page on the calendar doesn’t automatically make things better. We’re all having to find new beginnings, refreshment and newness in creative ways because the pandemic is still going on and so many of its challenges are still with us for at least awhile longer.
Many new years start with lofty goals and idealistic resolutions. I am keeping my goals for 2021 fairly simple, from being happier to staying connected to some baking resolutions as well. I miss seeing a lot of the people I volunteer with, go to church with, and socialize with, and really miss the opportunity to spend time together, chat in person, and share baked goods. One of the first things I want to do when we can gather in person is go to my favorite coffee shop in Uptown. I really miss long conversations over steaming cups of coffee under the stained-glass lamps at Barbette while discussing a book or a close friend’s recent happenings in her life. And even more, who hasn’t missed the chance for celebrating a loved one’s birthday, graduation, or retirement last year? I have, and I’m sure you too! So my baking goals for 2021 are being somewhat colored by the opportunities for safe gathering and sharing that we have available to us. Creating small-batch cakes, cheesecakes, and tarts can be challenging, and what I did last year was bake a lot of individual dessert servings, until it dawned on me: cookies are the ultimate individual dessert, and they are so easy to share! Packed in a cute box with a ribbon and some tissue paper, they make a wonderful gift, so I am extending this practice that we tend to do around the holidays to the rest of the winter months. I am hopeful that as the late spring and early summer arrive, outdoor gatherings and warmer weather will allow for some safe and socially-distanced events, during which I can share pies, tarts, and cakes. For the winter months, my focus will be cookies, bars, and small treats: easy to pack, easy to share, quick to assemble and even prep ahead.
So the first recipe of the month is a twist on a classic. I adore chocolate chip cookies, but I am mighty picky about the texture of these cookies. Some like chocolate chip cookies to be crispy and thin; some like them baked into giant rounds as big as palms; others prefer dense, chewy cookies; and still others have a penchant for a soft, melt-in-your-mouth consistency. This is just texture alone! You could endlessly debate about the merits of using milk chocolate chips versus dark chocolate chunks versus classic semi-sweet chips, or the perfect ratio of crumb to chocolate. I think this quintessential American cookie really boasts the perfect vanilla-scented dough that can go well with so many toppings and mix-ins. So, inspired by that, the recipe below features some dark chocolate covered cranberries in a lovely pink hue and the recipe for the dough itself produces a cookies that is soft and tender. It’s one of my favorite versions of chocolate chip cookies, and I do love the fact that you can use dark chocolate cranberries or any other chocolate-covered berry that you may still have left over from the holiday feasts. Chocolate-covered blueberries would go wonderfully, too. I just happened to love the bright, tart acidity in the cranberries contrasting with the buttery, almost caramel-flavored dough and the slightly bitter chocolate.
I’ve already been sharing cookies with all my loved ones, dropping off boxes for the New Year and for Epiphany, and they make for a pretty good excuse to stop by and have a front-lawn visit with loved ones and ring in the New Year in a positive way. One thing’s for sure: while we may not know what 2021 will bring, we can all do our part in making 2021 a better, brighter, hopefully sweeter year. Even if we can’t change the larger events happening in the world, we can start small with our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and sometimes small acts of kindness can ripple throughout a community. This is my hope for 2021. This, and making lots of cookies, and hoping you will try one of my cookie recipes, too!
Cranberry-Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours or overnight
Bake: 10 minutes
Servings: 14 cookies
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ¼ cup cane sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp Celtic salt
- 1/3 to ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup pink dark-chocolate covered cranberries, or any other chocolate-covered berry
- ½ cup finely chopped almonds (optional)
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and Celtic salt, whisking well. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the butter, brown sugar, and granulated cane sugar on medium speed for 2 full minutes. The mixture will be creamy and soft.
- Add the egg followed by the vanilla extract and vanilla powder, whisking until everything is fully integrated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the dry ingredients ¼ cup at a time, mixing on low speed until combined. The dough will be thick.
- Fold in the chopped almonds, if using. With a rubber spatula or wooded spoon, fold in the pink chocolate-covered fruit. Given that these pieces are rather large, use your hands to combine them into the dough if necessary.
- Scrape the dense cookie dough into a glass bowl, cover it, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. This will make sure that the resulting cookie will be soft and chewy, so don’t skip this step! You may store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- On the day you want to bake the cookies, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften at room temperature until you can handle it.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using an ice cream scoop, form balls of cookie dough and scoop them onto the prepared baking sheet, placing them at least 2 inches apart from each other. If you don’t have an ice cream scoop, you can form cookie dough balls by hand and the equivalent is about 3 tbsp dough per ball. If you like smaller cookies, I recommend using 1 ½ tbsp per cookie dough ball.
- Bake the cookies for 10-11 minutes, until barely golden around the edges. The cookies will be soft and slightly underbaked and will have the lightest hint of golden on their edges. That’s how you know they are done. You may press a few more chocolate-covered cranberries into the tops of the cookies while they are cooling. This would be purely for more chips and appearance! Please note that while the cookies cool on the warm baking sheet, they will continue to cook a little bit more, solidifying the base.
- Once the cookies are cooled, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store them in a tin or airtight jar so they can stay fresh and soft.
Note: you can make the cookie dough ahead and even freeze the dough for up to 3 months. I do not recommend to pre-shape the dough into cookie balls and then freeze, unless you don’t care that your resulting cookies will not be as soft and chewy as if you followed the instructions above.