Monday, August 3, 2015

What is not better covered with chocolate and sea salt?

You know the line about how dogs always want to crotch-meet the person who's afraid of dogs? Or give a big hello jump on the person who's allergic?

Well, they also have a sixth sense for suckers. I, in case it wasn't clear, am a sucker. I went on a walk with one dog this morning and came back with two.

It was short-lived; animal control came a couple of hours ago and the dog (part husky, I think, on account of his pretty blue eyes) seemed pretty happy to be going. He seemed very friendly and thought this was another friend. (I keep saying he; it's because in my head all dogs are male until proven otherwise. This is genetic. Ask my mom how Thor got her name.)

I might have just let him keep running when we got home except for one thing -- well, two things, I discovered -- the tick that was enjoying the all-you-can-eat buffet on this dog's eyelid. Ticks gotta go. He and Pippi played, he made eyes at the neighbor's dog through the fence and now he's inside getting taken care of by people who love animals. And we will speak of this no further.

It's cookie time! (Was talking about ticks a bad intro for this? Maybe.)

I bought somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 pounds of cherries a week ago. I love cherries. They have excellent health benefits, namely, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties and melatonin to help with sleeping. More importantly, they're delicious, as shown when I brought a bag to a a family the missionaries were meeting, and the kids' excitement rivaled mine when someone shows up on my door with cookies. I dried a third, froze a third and have been steadily making my way through the final third. 

These cookies helped. They taste a lot like chocolate-covered cherries, but without that impossibly sweet juice that for some reason chocolate-covered cherry manufacturers feel is necessary. Guys, it's really, really not. You shouldn't even need an ingredients list for chocolate-covered cherries. It's in the name.

I don't remember the thought train that led to the chocolate-covered cherry cookies topped with sea salt, but the result was fantastic. I do remember I considered chocolate ganache on top; I recently discovered ganache and will never make it again now on account of I'll end up eating the entire batch straight from the bowl with a spoon. It's that good. The cookies take a few-steps but are worth the effort.

Cherry-chocolate bites with sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1.5 cups minus two tablespoons flour
2/3 cup plus two tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh cherries, halved and pitted (This is the worst part of the whole process.)
12 ounces of semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips (Rule of thumb: Darker is always better. I used 60 percent. Had I been making these just for me instead of for a group who may have an unexplainable aversion to dark chocolate, I would have broken out the 85 percent Colombian that has prime real estate in my freezer and is now my drug of choice.)
Sea salt

1. Cream the butter until it's fluffy. Of course. Why is no one selling fluffy butter?
2. Add the sugar; mix until it's all mixed together. You know what I mean.
3. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix as above.
4. Mix the flour, salt and cocoa powder. This ratio will make dark chocolate cookies, which I clearly love. If you would prefer to keep them a little later, don't add the extra two tablespoons of cocoa and do add the two tablespoons of flour. Add this to the mixer. Mix until it's chocolate sticky goodness that you want to stick your finger in.
Go ahead and stick your finger in. I did.
5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. It could stay for longer if needed.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
7. Flour a work area and your rolling pin and break out the dough. I rolled it pretty thick, probably close to a quarter of an inch. I didn't want these crispy. You can judge for yourself how you like them.

8. Using a small circle cookie cutter if you have one, cut out the cookies and put them on the baking sheet. These have no rising power so don't get much bigger in cooking, so you don't have to spread them out too far. If you don't have the required cookie cutter, and who does, because why would you buy such a boring cookie cutter, you can use a small goblet or do as I did and use the mouth of beverage holders masquerading as cute little milk bottles that Sam gave me. 

9. Bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.
10. When they've cooled, put half a cherry on each cookie.
11. Using a double boiler (or a pot with a glass bowl), melt the chocolate. If you're using the bowl setup as I did, put some water in the pot, turn it on high, get it boiling. Put the glass bowl on top and put the chocolate in it. Stir occasionally. When the water is boiling, turn the heat down. You don't want to get water in the chocolate or it'll harden.
12. Cover the cherry and cookie with chocolate. Sprinkle a little sea salt on while the chocolate is still melty.

13. Let the chocolate set. I know this sounds weird coming from me, because I advocate eating cookies, particularly chocolate ones, as soon as you can without severely burning your mouth. But if you put the cookies in the fridge (or freezer to speed up the process), they will be even more delightful. So just do it.

I'm sad these are all gone.

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