A few weeks ago, someone from Oh! Nuts contacted me. They were interested in sending me some of their products so I could try them in my recipes. I was skeptical at first, but when my goodies arrived in the mail, I was thrilled. (If you're interested in opportunities like this to blog about free food, make sure you check out Blake Makes.)
I gave them a short list of some dried fruit and nuts I would be interested in trying, and they ended up sending me 3 pounds! I received a pound each of: roasted macadamia nuts, dried guava slices, and razcherries.
I was particularly excited about the "razcherries" - gourmet cherries infused with raspberry flavor! They were so good, I wanted to eat them all straight out of the bag :)
I thought long and hard about what I should make with these and ended up with two different ideas, both involving chocolate, as chocolate and cherries seemed like a natural combination.
The first thing I decided to bake was Dorie's French Chocolate Brownies. The first time I made them for Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD), I used tart cherries instead of raisins. I loved them so much, I knew they would be good with the razcherries.
The problem I had with these brownies the first time around was that they seemed to form a super thick crust that crumbled into pieces when the brownies were cut into. I gathered from visiting the various TWD blogs that this was due to too much air being whipped into the eggs. Having discovered my mistake, I made sure not to over beat the eggs and sugar this time. It worked like a charm, because this time I ended up with only the thin, flaky crust typical of most brownies.
So how did the razcherries taste in these brownies? Delightful. The brownies were light and moist, super chocolately, and each bite that included a razcherry was a burst of tart cherry followed by a sweet raspberry flavor.
The next thing I decided to make with the razcherries was cookies. I flipped through my cookbooks and finally settled upon a recipe in The Pastry Queen - Café Chocolate Cherry Bites. I've only tried a handful of recipes from this book, but I've enjoyed each and every one. I even found my favorite carrot cake recipe in this book. So when I saw these chocolate cookies, I knew they would be perfect for the razcherries.
I've actually never made chocolate cookies before, so I was excited to try these. They have a hint of coffee, that was nicely complemented by the razcherries. As with most baked goods, I decided to omit the nuts. Seeing as I had some leftover pecans from the pecan honey sticky buns, however, I decided to make a half batch with the nuts. If you decide to omit the nuts, make sure you add more chocolate chips and cherries to the dough. I realized after I pulled my first batch out of the oven that I did not account for the volume of the pecans in the recipe -- the cookies that did not have any pecans in them were much runnier and flattened out quite a bit. I guess I should have anticipated that, but now you can learn from my mistake and avoid that problem :)
Overall, these cookies were good, but I think I've decided that I'm just not a huge fan of chocolate cookies (except Oreos, of course). I was, however, impressed with the razcherries from Oh! Nuts. This company seems to have a nice selection of products with decent prices. I found that some of their prices are better than Nuts Online, another company I've seen recommended (not all of their products are cheaper, though, so you just have to shop around). Of course shipping prices are a factor whenever buying online, so I did a side by side comparison and Oh! Nuts seems to offer rates that are just slightly cheaper than Nuts Online.
What about the rest of the goodies I received? Well, I've been considering several different recipes for the roasted macadamia nuts and dried guava slices, so stay tuned. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I'd love to hear them - so leave a comment or send me an email.
Café Chocolate Cherry Bites
from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather
1 cup pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/4 cups firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 tbsp boiling water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups dried cherries, halved or quartered (I used razcherries)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. Cool the nuts for 5 minutes, then coarsely chop.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, or grease generously with butter or cooking spray. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed about 1 minute, until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. In a small bowl, stir the espresso powder into the boiling water until dissolved. Add the espresso liquid and the vanilla to the cookie batter and beat for 30 seconds. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt all at once, mixing on low speed just until incorporated. Stir in the pecans, chocolate chips, and cherries. (The dough will be softer and wetter than the average cookie dough.)
Using a 1-3/4-inch-diameter scoop, drop the cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-3/4 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies have spread and have no lighter-colored, raw-looking dough in the middle. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 10 minutes, until they are no longer too soft to remove. Transfer the cookies to racks and cool completely before serving. The cookies will keep for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container and can be frozen, well wrapped, for up to 1 month.
Tip: Heed the one-minute rule: It can take as little as sixty seconds for cookies to turn from underdone to overbaked. To ensure the best results, start checking cookies about a minute before the end of the specified cooking time, and check every minute from then on.
Yield: About 3-1/2 Dozen.