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~ Oatmeal & Savory Dried Sour Cherry Sensations ~

Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #1 (Intro Picture)I was either born loving oatmeal cookies or all of the oatmeal cookies I was initially introduced to as a child were spectacular.  Our neighbor Ruth Yacobenis always had small crunchy ones in the apothecary-shaped cookie jar in her kitchen.  Our other neighbor Agnes Starosta  made small chewy ones which she used to decoratively arrange on top of a pretty little dish containing one scoop of vanilla ice cream.  My Tettie (my great Aunt Mary) made large flat ones that were crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle and had dark raisins throughout them.  All of the above were delicious, but I was never really present when these ladies were baking them, so I can't report any of their secrets to you.  I do, however, have some surprisingly sharp recollections of my Coaldale Baba baking her oatmeal cookies in her downstairs kitchen.  This would have been when I was around the age of 5, because my grandfather was still alive and well enough to be driving me around his big black car!

Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #16 (Finished Cookies)Coaldale Baba (my maternal grandmother who lived on High Street in Coaldale, PA) had two kitchens... one upstairs where the family resided and one downstairs to the back of her in-home, mom and pop, neighborhood grocery store.  Both kitchens had porcelain coal stoves, large porcelain kitchen sinks and large, enamel-topped work tables in their respective centers.  Baba seemed to bake an awful lot and she made a lot of cookies and rolls using various dried fruits like apricots, dates, prunes and raisins.  I don't know for certain if Baba actually ever sold any of her cookies in her store, but I would suppose she did.  I do know for certain that she donated a lot of her baked-goodies to our church.  Here is the scoop on her oatmeal cookies from the perspective of my then five-year-old mind:   

Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #2 (Single Cookie Closeup)Baba's oatmeal cookies were full of plump, soft raisins, and, were very thick and chewy, as well as pleasantly spiced.  As for the raisins, she used "white" raisins as opposed to Tettie's (her sister's) "black" raisins.  She would let me "dump" the raisins from the box into the appropriate size measuring cup and then she would pour boiling water from her whistling tea kettle to cover them.  By the time she was ready to fold them into her cookies, they were very plump and soft.  As for the thick and chewy part, I know she achieved that by putting both baking powder and baking soda in them, because she would ask me to pick out and bring her the "orange box" right next to the "red can" from her pantry.  The spice she used came out of a small, square, red-bottomed, white topped, tin can, which I learned later in life to be apple pie spice.  She used it quasi-liberally and just after it got mixed in, her oatmeal cookie dough was ready to taste!

At a point in my life when I had a lot of grade school bake sales to donate cookies to, I worked on duplicating Baba's oatmeal cookie recipe and I am here to cockily say:  I think I did a really good job.  Then, about 5-6 years ago, when I bought a bag of dried sour cherries from our towns beloved O.W. Houts &  Sons grocery store/lumber yard,  I decided to raise my oatmeal-raisin cookie recipe to a level of complete decadence.  So, the next time your thinkin' oatmeal-raisin cookies, I hope you'll consider giving my oatmeal-sour cherry cookie recipe a try instead!

Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #3 (Ingredients) 3/4  cup salted butter, at room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)

3/4  cups butter-flavored shortening, at room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)

1  pound dark brown sugar

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  tablespoons apple pie spice

1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder

3/4  teaspoon baking soda

3/4  teaspoon salt

6  large eggs, at room temperature

2  tablespoons wild cherry-flavored brandy

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation

4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

7 1/2 cups  old-fashioned, uncooked oats

2  pounds dried sour cherries, coarsely chopped to the size of raisins

Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #4 (Chopping Cherries) ~ Step 1.  For me, the moment I tasted my first dried sour cherry, I fell in love with them.  They are simply bursting with flavor that you don't get from some other dried fruits.

Because they are about twice the size of a raisin, I quickly run a chef's knife through them to coarsely chop them to about the size of raisins.

Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #5 (Combine Butter & Shortening) ~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter with the shortening, just until creamy and uniform in color, 30-45 seconds, then...







Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #6 (Add Dry Ingredients) ... add the sugars, apple pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.








Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #7 (Beat & Scrape until Combined) ~ Step 3.  On medium-high speed of mixer, beat the mixture until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed, "fluffy" and uniform in color, 1-2 minutes.






Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #8 (Add Wet Ingredients) ~ Step 4.  Add the eggs, brandy and vanilla extract, and...










Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #9 (Beat Until Smooth) ... beat briefly, but thoroughly, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Mixture will be smooth and creamy.

Now, don't race around like a madperson, but remember:  your baking powder and baking soda have just been combined with the wet ingredients, so work at a steady, comfortable pace, without interruptions, until all of the cookies are baked... no phone calls please!!!


Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #10 (Beating in the Flour)~ Step 5.  With mixer on medium-low speed, gradually incorporate all of the flour.  The mixture will be very thick and uniform in color.

Using a large rubber spatula, meticulously scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no pockets of flour that are not thorougly incorporated.

Remove the mixer from the bowl.  You will not be needing it anymore today.  


Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #13 (Cookie Dough Ready for Pans) ~ Step 6.  Alternately, fold in the oats and cherries, meaning:  oats, cherries, oats, cherries, etc., until all of both ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

A very thick and delicious cookie batter will have formed.  Go ahead, give it a little taste.


Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #14 (Scooping Dough on Pans) ~ Step 7.  I am using 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans lined with parchment paper sheets along with a 2 1/4" round ice cream scoop as a measure.  I place 12 cookies, well-apart on each pan.  You can use any size pan you want, but make sure the cookies are placed well-apart.  Do not flatten the balls.


Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #15 (Out of Oven) ~ Step 8.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 11-12 minutes, or until cookies are just browning on the tops and around the sides.  Do not over bake!  Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool in pan, about 2 minutes, prior to transferring to cooling rack(s) to cool completely:

Oatmeal & Sour Cherry Cookies #17 (Finished Cookies Closeup)Oatmeal & Savory Dried Sour Cherry Sensations:  Recipe yields 3 1/2 dozen large, gourmet, bakery-style cookies.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; electric mixer (a hand-held mixer will work just fine); large rubber spatula; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; 4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" parchment paper sheets; 2-3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling racks or one full-sheet-pan size cooling rack (as seen in above picture); metal spatula

Cook's Note:  If you do not have the 4 baking pans, make sure whatever pan you have is cooled completely between batches  Rinse the pan under cold water if necessary to bring it back to room temperature.  If you place raw cookie dough on a warm or slightly-warm pan, the cookies will flatten out and you will have missed this fantastic cookie experience!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)


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