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Cherry Christmas Cookies Recipe

Cheery, cherry cookies with a dip in decadent dark chocolate and a dusting of pistachios!

Cherry Christmas Cookies

For the printable recipe click here.


Holiday season is cookie season!

This may be a paleo blog, but we like our cookie exchanges just as much as the next person. When it comes to Christmas cookies, we'll often allow a little more room in our recipes for sugar, while keeping things dairy free and gluten free as much as possible. This Cherry Christmas Cookies recipe is the perfect example: no grains or dairy to be found, but with festive elegance and cheery, cherry flavor, they'll have everyone at your cookie swap singing, "Fa la la la la!"


​Paleo Cherry Christmas Cookies recipe

Some cherry cookie recipes rely on jarred maraschino cherries or maraschino cherry juice that is full of red food coloring. While maraschino cherry cookies do sound delicious, we go for a more natural approach here. Quick note: you can find naturally colored maraschino-style cherries, but the plant-derived red food coloring used in such items often turns a bit gray when baked, which is also why we do not add natural red dye to these cookies.

Instead of maraschino cherries, we opt for dried cherries and just a splash of tart cherry juice. The color of the dough once baked is more of a cream color than a cherry-screaming red or pink color, but flecks of dried cherry in the dough whisper about what to expect inside. Almond extract intensifies the cherry flavor without the medicinal vibes that cherry flavoring sometimes brings to the party.


To keep things grain-free, instead of all-purpose flour, our dry ingredients are a trifecta of almond flour, cassava flour, and potato starch. Leavened with a little baking soda (which reacts with the acidity in the cherries and juice), this trio creates the perfect fluffy texture with just enough sturdiness to stand up to a drag through melted chocolate.


​In my first draft of this recipe, I went with mostly cassava, a little bit of potato, and no almond. The dough was a dream to work with, but the results were pretty unpleasant. The texture was too tough, and while the cherry flavor definitely came through, the cassava left it's mark a bit too much. The next time I went with the full trifecta, and let's just say we now have a new favorite cookie in the Monster casa.


Cherry Christmas Cookies

Food processor versus stand mixer

This delicious cookie dough is all mixed up in the food processor. Typically I would use a stand mixer for something like this, but I like the dried cherries to be blitzed to bits in the processor, and I like to keep the dirty dishes to a minimum.


dried cherries processed with sugar

Processing the dried cherries with granulated sugar first helps to keep the blades from getting too gunked up and ensures more even blending.

If you do not have a food processor, or you only have a mini-sized version, feel free to chop the cherries very finely by hand or with the sugar in a mini food chopper/processor. If using a mixer to make the dough, beat the sugar and cherries with the coconut oil and extracts in a large bowl, then beat in the eggs. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to the wet ingredients. Proceed with the rest of the recipe directions from there!


Cherry Christmas Cookies

​But white sugar isn't paleo

Ok, we'll call it an Almost Paleo Cherry Christmas Cookies recipe.


Look, we are making cookies, not salad. Don't eat the whole batch, and you'll be fine. Probably.

​Haha.


I like to splurge a little sometimes, but I know this may be a sticking point for some. I use organic sugar that is processed in a manner I feel comfortable with, and I feel like it's the best choice for this recipe. I would not use coconut sugar in this recipe as it would too drastically alter the color, flavor, and possibly texture. I have not experimented with liquid sweeteners, but from a flavor standpoint, a light maple syrup would probably be the best choice. It likely would make the dough a bit more sticky, but I'd love to hear how it turns out if you try it!


Cherry Christmas Cookies

​Melting the chocolate

I'm not gonna lie, chocolate can be a pain. If you heat it too much/too hot/too quickly, it gets too thick and clumpy and won't cloak the cookies well. If water splashes in, it will seize up and get even clumpier. Even if the chocolate stays nice and thin and flowy, it may not set up and get firm when it cools. Or it may get gray streaks when it sets. Or . . . or . . . you can see why not everyone is a chocolatier. And why "chocolatey candy melts" are a thing--they don't need to be tempered.

​You can definitely choose to use those here if you desire. However, they are often more bland than real chocolate and bring a lot of extra ingredients to the party, including dairy, soy, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. They almost always contain artificial vanillin, which I am sensitive to, so I usually avoid them.


Instead, I look for semisweet (or dark or bittersweet) chocolate chips with as basic an ingredient list as possible. My local grocery store has an organic brand that is free of dairy and soy. There are also paleo brands that use coconut sugar, but they are very pricy.


Semisweet chocolate chips melted over a double boiler

To melt the chocolate, I use a double-boiler setup to melt about two thirds of the chocolate slowly and gently. The experts say to reserve 25%, but feel like I get better results reserving about a third. I turn off the heat when the chocolate is almost completely melted, then gently stir in the remaining chocolate. This usually does the trick. The chocolate should set at room temperature--not in the fridge--but the thermostat should be set to about 69 (or cooler) to get things going.


​For a more detailed dive into chocolate tempering, check out our Goji-Macadamia Bark post.

Cherry Christmas Cookies

Variations

I'll admit that with all the rolling, the chilling, the melting, the dipping, the sprinkling, and the setting, this probably isn't what you'd call an "easy recipe."


So here's another option: after the dough is mixed, remove the blade from the food processor and use a rubber spatula to mix in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachios and 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or 1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips. If the ingredients are not a problem for you, you can also add or substitute white chocolate chips. If you prefer almond cherry cookies, you could use chopped Marcona almonds instead of pistachios, or use both almonds and pistachios for an extra-nutty version.


Use a medium cookie scoop to drop evenly sized mounds of dough onto your parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake without chilling for 8-10 minutes.

While this recipe is called Cherry Christmas Cookies--and we definitely think they're the perfect cookie to make a great addition to your Christmas cookie trays this season--we wouldn't hesitate to dig out our heart-shaped cutters and whip up some cherry Valentine's Day cookies, too!

And of course, if you prefer pink cookies (and don't mind a little artificial food dye), feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to the wet ingredients.

Cherry Christmas Cookies

Here's what you'll need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup dried cherries

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

  • 2 eggs

  • 2 T tart cherry juice

  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

  • 3/4 cup almond flour

  • 3/4 cup cassava flour

  • 3/4 cup potato starch

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • about 5 oz dark chocolate chips, preferably dairy free and soy free

  • about 1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios

Here's what you'll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  2. Place the dried cherries and sugar in the food processor and process till the cherries are very finely chopped and thoroughly combined with the sugar. Add the eggs, tart cherry juice, almond extract, vanilla extract, and salt and process just to combine. Add the remaining dry ingredients (almond flour-baking soda), and pulse several times to combine into a pasty dough. There should still be flecks of dried cherries speckling the dough.

  3. Scrape the dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper, and top with another piece of parchment or sturdy plastic wrap. Roll the dough out between the two pieces to a thickness of about 3/8 inch or about 1 cm. Place the rolled-out dough, still sandwiched between the parchment sheets, on a baking sheet for stability and transfer to the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

  4. Carefully peel the top layer of parchment off the dough, use a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. You can either cut them out and place them about an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or new piece of parchment, or leave about in inch between them as you cut, and simply peel the excess dough off, leaving the cookies on the original piece of parchment to bake.

  5. Bake the cookies on a silicone or parchment-lined cookie sheet at 350 for 8 minutes and repeat with remaining dough. If the dough becomes too sticky to work with, chill for longer.

  6. Allow the cookies to cool completely. You may wish to use a spatula to remove them from the parchment or silicone mat to make sure they do not stick on the bottom.

  7. While the cookies are cooling, make sure your pistachios are very finely chopped and place a clean silicone mat or large piece of parchment paper on the counter.

  8. Create a double boiler by setting a heatproof bowl over a pot with about an inch of water and bring to a gentle boil. It is very important that water vapor does not get inside the bowl. Place about 2/3 of the chocolate chips in the heatproof bowl and allow to melt over medium heat, stirring gently for about 5 minutes or until the chips are almost completely melted. Add the remaining chips, turn off the heat, and continue to stir gently till the chips are all melted. This may take several minutes.

  9. Gently dip/drag one cookie at a time in the melted chocolate so that the chocolate coats between 1/3 of the front of the cookie without covering the back. Very gently shake the excess chocolate off and place the cookie on the prepared silicone mat or parchment.

  10. Sprinkle with pistachios. Repeat with remaining cookies. Allow the chocolate to set uncovered at cool room temperature (ideally around 69 degrees F). Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Cherry Christmas Cookies

For the printable recipe click here.


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Hey Y'all!

I'm the Monster Momma.

I'm a Christ-follower, wife, mother to five sweet paleo monsters, writer, and

paleo food fiend.

Join me and my family on our paleo journey!

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