Friday, 10 January 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies

with Sour Cherries and Szechuan Pepper

At this time of year, with the Christmas feasting registering on the scales (or on the waistline), and thoughts turning longingly to the next holiday, it's only natural that many of us start to think about healthier eating. I'm not going to pretend that chocolate chip cookies feature anywhere in a low calorie diet, but this version uses sunflower oil instead of butter, and adds some oats, and it could be argued that these are two steps towards making them a little bit better for you!

The first We Should Cocoa challenge of the year is hosted by Linzi at Lancashire Food, and she has, most appropriately for the New Year, challenged us all to bake with a new ingredient - something that we haven't used with chocolate before.

I thought very hard about what I could use that I haven't previously paired with chocolate, and several meanderings around the internet (you know how it is, you look up one thing and end up a million miles away, as things catch your interest) and an examination of all my chocolate cookery books eventually lead me to Szechuan Pepper. I've used chilli and chocolate together quite often and thought that Szechuan Pepper (it's effects on the taste buds are often described as 'hot and numbing') would give the cookies a nice kick of seasonal warmth. As Szechuan Pepper is also described as having a citrusy tang, I decided to enhance this aspect by adding some tangerine zest and juice. I chose to add sour cherries to compliment both the pepper (I hoped) and the tangerine, and to cut through the sweetness of a traditional chocolate chip cookie.

The recipe I use is adapted from this one on the Cookie Madness site.  I kept all the dough ingredient quantities the same, but I used sunflower oil, light muscovado sugar and spelt flour. I left out the vanilla extract and added 1 teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns (sieved after grinding to remove husks) and the finely grated zest of a tangerine. I added 80g chopped plain chocolate and instead of nuts I used 70g dried sour cherries, which I soaked in the juice from the tangerine while preparing the other ingredients, then drained before using.

The result was a soft chewy cookie packed with chocolate and fruit flavours, together with that distinctive flavour that spelt flour gives. There was a hint of warmth from the pepper, but I think I had been too conservative with the amount of pepper I used. I'd been guided by the only similar recipe I could find which used half a teaspoon. I estimate that was the amount I used after sieving the ground peppercorns. It was still a useful exercise, as it hasn't put me off the combination and I want to try it again with more pepper.

We Should Cocoa is the brainchild of Choclette, at Chocolate Log Blog, and the full set of rules can be found on her blog. Briefly, the aim is to produce something containing some form of chocolate plus the chosen ingredient or task for the month. The host (in this case, Linzi, see above) posts a round-up of all the entries at the end of the month.


Linzi_Barrow said...

Thanks for taking part in we should cocoa, inspired combination

Snowy said...

These sound really interesting. I like the combination of flavours you've used.

Choclette said...

Oh Suelle, Szechuan pepper sounds so exciting. I wouldn't even know where to get any from. My only experience was tasting a berry straight from the tree and I have to say, I didn't like the numbing affect it most undoubtedly had. But I'd love to experiment with it and this sounds like a very good start. Pairing it up with citrus and cherry makes these cookies sound thoroughly delicious. Thanks for another fabulous entry into WSC.