Cherry Cravings

Every so often, tart cherries find their way into my baking, and when they do, I always ask myself why I don’t use this fruit more liberally.

Cherries combined with chopped chocolate make the best brownies, and fresh cherries make to-die-for upside-down cakes. The inspiration to bake my most recent batch of Cherry-Chocolate-Pistachio Cookies (see below) came from a trip to Door County in northeast Wisconsin. Here, Montmorency cherries are harvested in droves (between 8 and 12 million pounds of cherries annually) and turned into all manner of delectable things, from piquant salsas to savory sauces to sweet preserves.

Montmorency cherries are quite tart and the most common variety grown in Door County, a region that’s the fourth largest producer of tart cherries in the nation. Bing cherries and Balaton cherries are the sweeter kinds that you’d typically eat by the bowlful, spitting pits and trying not to get the deep red juice on your clothes. The tart ones like Montmorency are the quintessential pie cherries. But because they’re rather fragile when fresh and ripe, they can’t be shipped easily to other regions of the country. Instead, you can find them canned, frozen and dried. They’re ideal for adding a sweet-tangy note to baked goods.

Not only do they taste good, but tart cherries also boast a few health benefits, according to ChooseCherries.com (a site sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute):

  • Tart cherry juice may help improve the quality and duration of sleep, reduce the risk of insomnia and increase overall sleep efficiency.
  • Tart cherries may help reduce inflammation related to arthritis and gout.
  • Drinking tart cherry juice after working out can be helpful to athletes, easing muscle soreness after exercise.
  • Cardiovascular benefits come from cherries, and eating them can help reduce inflammation and improve belly fat.

Have I whetted your appetite for tart cherries? Try them in these cookies. You’ll love the sweet and tangy character they impart to these gems--perfect for nibbling on the porch at the end of summer.

Cherry-Chocolate-Pistachio Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12-oz.) pkg. mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup roasted salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cherries

1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Beat butter, sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well-blended. At low speed, beat in flour mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts and cherries.

3. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet; cool on wire rack.

5 dozen cookies

PER COOKIE: 115 calories, 6 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 1.5 g protein, 15.5 g carbohydrate, 15 mg cholesterol, 75 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

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