Cookies to Cha-Cha About
When my husband and I first met, he wooed me with dancing — even though both of us have two left feet and moves that win more points for sympathy than grace.
We had been friends for a short span, when he asked me to be his swing-dance partner, as he wanted to take lessons.
I had always wanted to learn, so I eagerly said, “Yes!”
We’d meet after work once a week at a local club for lessons. Each week, we’d master a new step or turn — much to our own amazement.
After more than a month, we’d not only become semi-decent on the dance floor, hand in hand, but we’d also started dating.
Flash-forward to after our engagement: With our relationship more serious now, my soon-to-be husband feels the need to tell me that when he asked me to be his dance partner way back when, it wasn’t a scam, nor any kind of scheming on his part to find an excuse to ask me out. Oh no, he merely needed a dance partner. That was it, plain and square.
Flash-forward again to shortly after our wedding: I’m sitting on an airplane, flying home from Chicago with a gabby male seatmate next to me. He tells me a funny story about how he met his wife, then asks me how I met my husband. I tell him about the dancing lessons, and how my husband had asked me to be his partner on pure innocent whim.
My seatmate recoils in laughter, then looks me square in the eyes: “Your husband told you THAT? Listen to me — there is no way any man is going to take dancing lessons without an ulterior motive. Trust me on that!”
When I get home, I recount that humorous exchange to my husband, who stares at the floor, hems and haws, then finally admits he had plotted from the start to win my hand.
Cut to the present: We don’t swing dance anymore. But we still enjoy that story. And anything that makes us think of it fondly, such as these cookies with the lilting name of “Chocolate Cherry Cha-Chas.”
They’re from the new cookbook, “Desserts From the Famous Loveless Cafe” (Artisan) by Pastry Chef Alisa Huntsman, of which I recently received a review copy.
That Nashville cafe has been serving up honey chess pie, blueberry skillet cobbler and other sweet sensations since 1951.
These cookies are full of chocolate — in both cocoa powder and chip forms. The original recipe calls for adding both dried cherries and raisins, but since I love the sweet-tart tang of the cherries so much, I just doubled their amount and omitted the raisins.
They are the color of childhood mud pies and have a lovely cakey, almost brownie-like texture.
They might not make you victorious on “Dancing with the Stars.” But they just might prompt you to take a spin with someone you love.
Chocolate Cherry Cha-Chas
(Makes about 4 dozen cookies)
1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup raisins (or use all dried cherries if you want)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 sturdy cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone sheets.
Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda into bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and scrape the bowl well. Add dry ingredients and mix just until no streaks remain.
Fold in chocolate chips, dried cherries, and raisins (if using) by hand. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons at least 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 14 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the baking time. Remove cookies from oven while they still look a little underdone; they will crisp up when they set. Let cool on the pans for a few minutes to firm up slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Adapted from a recipe published in “Desserts From the Famous Loveless Cafe” by Alisa Huntsman
More Cookies to Bake: Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies
And: Cornflake Cookies
And: Walnut Acorn Cookies
And: Italian Macarons