There are two main groups of cherries – sweet and tart.
You can use any kind of cherries in cookie recipes. However, sweet cherries are meant to be eaten fresh. Tart varieties are rarely eaten fresh, but rather preserved to be used in recipes later. Because of their tanginess, most of these are preserved with sweetener. Tart cherries are also quite juicy, which means moisture must be removed or thickened so that the fruit can be used in baking.
Use these four kinds of cherries in cookie recipes and know about each of them.
Commercial cherry pie filling is made with modified food starches that resist breaking or thinning when heated with cherries. Sugar, flavorings, and coloring are also added during processing. The resulting thick, sweet, colorful concoction is used in pies and desserts.
Cherry pie filling can be made at home with pitted, tart cherries, sugar, a thickening agent (such as ClearJel®), and lemon juice (to prevent browning.) Recipes often call for almond flavoring, cinnamon, and red food coloring.
As an alternative for cherries in cookie recipes, cherry pie filling is useful in a variety of ways. It may be added to the dough as a flavoring or binder, spread over the surface of bars as a topping, or sandwiched between two layers. Some recipes call for individual cherries from the pie filling to be dropped on cookie surfaces, as in thumbprint cookies.
Dried cherries look like large raisins with a deep red
color. They may be specifically called for in
cookie recipes. When it comes to versatility, they can be substituted in cookie dough for all kinds of dried fruit. Cherries in cookie recipes add a hint of almond flavoring. Like other dried fruit they can be chopped but may be sticky
when added to cookie dough.
Drying removes moisture from the fruit to preserve it. While conventional dried fruits, such as raisins or dates, are commercially processed in traditional methods simply in wind tunnel dryers, cherries are first infused with sugar (most often a sucrose syrup) before drying.
At home, cherries can be dried in a food dehydrator, in the oven, or in the sun. Various recipes recommend soaking pitted cherries in sugar overnight and then draining them before drying. Often cooks are advised to ascorbic acid (by crushing vitamin C pills) into cherries before drying them in order to prevent browning.
Dried cherries sealed can be stored in an airtight container unopened at room temperature for 6-12 months, in the refrigerator for 1-2 years, and indefinitely in the freezer. Once opened they can still be stored successfully for 3-6 months on the shelf, 6-12 months in the fridge, and for a year in the freezer.
Sometimes known as candied cherries, glacé cherries, or crystallized cherries, glazed cherries date back 800 years, originally processed in sugar as a means of preservation. Today processing methods vary, but the basic principle is this: remove the water from the cherries and replace it with sugared syrup. Firm, fresh cherries are cleaned and pitted, then boiled or dried. Cherries are soaked in a sugar syrup (or undergo several soakings with progressively thicker syrup) and cooked them slowly to replace their moisture content with sugar. The process can take up to 10 days, depending upon the manufacturer. Commercially, red dye (or green, yellow, and even other colors) may be added to cherries.
The sugar adds sweetness to the cherries’ flavor, yet the syrup thickens in the fruit making glazed cherries are quite sticky. Glazed cherries in cookie recipes may be whole or chopped. The instructions may call for cherries to be tossed with flour so they will incorporate into the dough without clumping.
Glazed cherries can be stored for a year if they are kept in an airtight container on the shelf, or even longer in the refrigerator or freezer.
Maraschino cherries are best known as a topper for ice cream sundaes or as a garnish in cocktails. They originated in Italy, where the marasca cherry variety was soaked in maraschino liquers to produce a tasty alcoholic treat.
When the cherries made their way to the U.S., Oregon State University professor Ernest Weigand developed a process to preserve them without alcohol. Today’s maraschinos begin with the Queen Anne cherry variety. The fruit is soaked in a brine to remove color and flavoring. Once pitted, the cherries are marinated are marinated in sweetener and almond flavoring, processed in sugar syrup, colored bright red, and packed into jars or cans and sealed.
Maraschinos are available in grocery stores both with the stems and without. Remove stems or use de-stemmed varieties before using maraschinos in recipes. Most cookie recipes direct you to drain the cherries and even blot them on paper towels before adding them to the cookie dough.
Unopened, a jar of maraschino cherries can last 2-3 years on the shelf. Once opened, the cherries can be stored in the refrigerator 6-12 months.
February is National Cherry Month.
More about Cookie Ingredients to Use in Cookie Recipes