Let me start right off the bat by simply saying this: this might be my favorite cookie ever. I love all the tried and true favorites - a good, thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie; a soft and chewy oatmeal raisin cookie; a crisp and delicate sugar cookie; and Newman-O's and Girl Scout Samoas and Thin Mints are oh-so-good. But this cookie fulfills all my favorite things I like about sweets in one go: chocolate, of course, preferably dark; sweet-tart and chewy dried cherries for a little bright-tart flavor, and texture; almonds and almond flavoring, because I'm a sucker for sweet almond treats; cardamom, since I adore it but I find it's rarely used in Western foods; and the fact that these are just sweet enough, but not too sweet. Put those all together, and make it into a cookie that's easy and not at all fussy, and you have a winner.
The base is also really versatile - chocolate, cherry, and almonds with a little cardamom is my personal favorite. But you could use cranberries, white chocolate, and pistachios; a little orange zest and anise seed; really, whatever you like. These last ones I drizzled with a little milk chocolate for a cookie exchange, and you can dip half in chocolate for a nice presentation if you like. But usually, I just make (and eat) these plain.
If you decide to make this with dried cherries, and you have a Trader Joe's nearby, I strongly encourage you to stop there and seek out their dried Montmorency cherries. I've tried various dried cherries, packaged and in bulk bins, but they are usually too sweet and mushy (and occassionally rotten, yuck). I've bought countless bags of the TJ's ones over the year, and they are by far the best AND most reasonably priced of the lot, with the best sweet-tart flavor and chewy texture.
Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti
1 1/4 sticks of butter (10 TB)Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1 cup sugar
1 TB vanilla
2-3 drops almond extract (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seed (optional)
3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted almond slivers (or other nut such as hazelnut pieces)
1/2 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, or chunks from a bar
2 TB coarse/raw sugar
With a whisk, mix together flour, salt and baking powder in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter in a large bowl in the microwave on medium heat. When melted, mix in sugar, vanilla, extracts and spices. Add eggs one at a time and whisk until thoroughly blended. Gradually stir in the flour mixture. When blended, mix in remaining ingredients with a wooden spoon (nuts, cherries and chocolate chips).
Separate dough into halves. On a large cookie sheet, shape two long, flat rectangles the length of the sheet. Don't worry about greasing the pan or flouring your hands, the dough won't stick. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and bake for about 25 minutes or until light to medium golden brown.
Remove cookies from the oven and let cool one hour. When cooled, cut 1/2 inch thick pieces. They are fully cooked at this stage, and you can enjoy them as a sugar cookie if you like. For traditional crispy biscotti, arrange slices cut side down on the cookie sheet and bake for another 15-20 minutes at 325 degrees. After 15-20 minutes, turn off the oven and let the cookies cool inside for another hour or two.
Makes about 2 dozen.