This unique cookie baked by Mrs. George Njoa took first place in the 10th annual Pillsbury National Bake-Off Bride Division in 1959. I questioned the recipe on several scores when I read through it the first time. Even as I baked the cookies I doubted they would be repeat winners in Mimi’s Kitchen. I liked the idea of chocolate chips meeting cherries in a cookie but the omission of eggs and the use of honey as the sole sweetener did not strike me as a winning idea. Most cookies require the use of eggs to provide structure and to contribute to the texture, flavor, and moisture in a cookie.
Using honey as the only sweetener in the cookie was equally suspect to me. I liked the idea of using less refined sugar but I also know the role sugar plays in baking. Sugar provides not only the sweet of a cookie but it is also a key player in the color and texture. Granulated sugar makes cookies browner by caramelizing as it bakes and contributes to a crisper texture and proper spreading as the cookie bakes. I seriously doubted honey would retain these qualities in a hot oven.
Yes, I suspected my bride winner recipe just might disappoint in the oven. My cookies will be too light in color and too soft in texture. As a true foodie of 2017 would say, these honey sweetened cookies are lacking in a “toothsome quality and have no chew.”
I planned my remake as I measured each ingredient per the original recipe into the mixing bowl. Decrease honey to ¼ cup, add 1 cup granulated sugar, add 2 eggs…
I owe Mrs. George Njoa an apology. These are absolutely delightful. For my second bake of these surprising treats I added ½ white baking chips.
Cherry Chocolate Honeys
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
¾ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup quick-cooking oats
½ cup toasted and chopped hazel nuts
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
¼ cup maraschino cherries, drained and quartered
Toast the hazel nuts for greater depth of flavor by spreading nuts in one layer in a rimmed baking pan. Set pan on middle rack of a 350 preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don't worry about skins that do not come off) and cool completely.
Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter, honey and vanilla extract in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and creamy.
Add flour mixture and beat just until combined.
With a wooden spoon or spatula gently stir in oats, hazel nuts, and chocolate pieces. Add chopped and drained maraschino cherries, stirring just until incorporated.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours for easier handling. While cookies are chilling adjust an oven rack to the middle position preheat oven to 375° F.
Drop chilled dough by rounded tablespoons from a medium cookie scoop onto parchment paper or silicon mat lined cookie sheets. Return remaining dough to the refrigerator while cookies bake.
Bake cookies for 8 -10 minutes or until light golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Set the baking sheet on wire racks for 2-3 minutes before gently lifting cookies off pan and onto wire racks to continue cooling.
Let baking sheets cool completely before repeating the process with the remaining dough.
Yield: 3 dozen cookies.