The issue is that I don't like baking. It's too precise a practice for me to enjoy. I prefer the little-of-this-little-of-that approach to cooking, which works fine for pasta dinners, but generally is a disagreeable way to bake.
But at this time of year, we are constantly reminded that happy families are supposed to have special bonding moments while baking luscious holiday treats. If we really loved our children, we'd be delighted by the mess they make while dumping flour on the floor and spilling raw eggs down the side of the stove.
And so begins the guilt. Not only are we supposed to be baking, we're also supposed to be enjoying it.
To attempt to assuage my guilt, every year I search for something I can handle. A recipe that is fast and easy. A recipe that is forgiving enough to accommodate my freewheeling approach to the kitchen. A recipe that requires minimal mess, minimal fuss, that is child-friendly and that will satisfy that peculiar holiday carb-driven urge.
This year I decided to do away with the trouble of a search and simply create my own. I wanted a cookie that is versatile and simple. A drop cookie was ideal; no bothersome shaping or chilling or decorating. If it could be made in one bowl, all the better. And flexibility was a must.
These cherry-chocolate drop cookies are the easy and delicious result. If you don't like dried cherries, substitute another dried fruit (Raisins? Cranberries? Apricots? Dates? Whatever.). Prefer semi-sweet chocolate or no chocolate or nuts? Have at it. However you make these cookies, they'll come together fast and easy so you can ditch the holiday baking guilt and get on with the holidays.
CHERRY-WHITE CHOCOLATE DROP COOKIES
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Makes 2 dozen cookies
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
Heat the oven to 375 F. Line 2 baking sheets with kitchen parchment.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and both sugars until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, almond extract and milk, then mix well. Add the flour and baking soda, then mix just until the dry ingredients are well mixed in. Mix in the cherries, cranberries and chocolate chips.
Drop the dough in 2-tablespoon mounds on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between them. Bake, in batches if necessary, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until just lightly browned at the edges and still slightly soft at the centre. Leave on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Nutrition information per serving: 210 calories; 90 calories from fat (43 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 28 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 15 g sugar; 3 g protein; 40 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org