A Classic Cookie from the 1950s
You can’t have too many cookies at Christmas.
In a recent discussion on Pfeffernüsse, I mentioned that when I was young, my mother baked Christmas cookies in quantity every year – usually more than a dozen varieties. Although many were family favorites like the Pfeffernüsse or the Best Chocolate Drop Cookie, she frequently added new recipes to the rotation.
One that I always enjoyed was Cherry Winks. This cookie was born in 1950 — as a winner in the second-ever Pillsbury Bake-Off contest.
Cherry Winks are tasty and very easy to make. And they’ll definitely make you a winner in the kitchen!
Recipe: Cherry Winks
Cherry Winks are flavored with dates, pecans, and maraschino cherries, and finished with a crunchy corn-flake coating. They have a faint almond-like taste, no doubt from the maraschino cherries.
This recipe is adapted from the the original recipe on the Pillsbury website and yields about 5 dozen cookies. They keep for several weeks when stored in airtight containers at room temperature.
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt (a bit more if you’re using Kosher salt)
- ¾ cup butter (or shortening, if you prefer)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs (consider using pasteurized; see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1/3 cup chopped maraschino cherries, plus an additional 30 or so halved cherries for garnish
- ~3 cups crushed corn flakes
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until all ingredients are well incorporated, and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together (a stand mixer works best, although an electric hand mixer works too).
- To the mixing bowl, add eggs, milk, and vanilla. Beat until you have a well-blended mixture.
Add pecans, dates, and chopped cherries, mixing until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture and beat until well blended.
- You can cover and refrigerate the dough at this point (put dough in an air tight container if you are refrigerating overnight) and bake the cookies later, if you prefer.
- When ready to bake, drop rounded teaspoons of dough into the crushed cornflakes and toss lightly to coat.
- Place the cookies on cookie sheets, allowing an inch of two of space between cookies. Use cookie sheets that are lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; if you don’t have liners, you can lightly grease the sheets with butter.
- Lightly press a piece of chopped maraschino cherry onto the top of each cookie (see Notes).
- Bake for about 12 minutes. Cookies are done when they just start to brown. Do not overbake.
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized eggs for cookie dough. Although it’s unlikely that the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk? I don’t know about you, but I find it’s impossible to make cookies without tasting the raw dough!
- You can easily identify pasteurized eggs because they usually have a red “P” stamped on them.
- Step 2 calls for mixing the dry ingredients together, then setting them aside while you combine all the wet (or not-totally-dry) ingredients with a mixer. You can add in the dry ingredients at any point after you cream the butter and sugar (step 3). I prefer to add them at the end of the mixing stage. I find that they mix better this way, allowing all the ingredients to be distributed evenly throughout the dough.
- The original recipe specified shortening, but these cookies taste better when made with butter. In fact, almost everything tastes better when made with butter.
- The original recipe calls for each cookie to be topped with ¼ maraschino cherry. That gives the cookies a more obvious “wink” effect, but it seems a bit stingy. Mrs. Kitchen Riffs (the chief cookie baker here at K R Central) likes to use half a cherry on each cookie.
- I prefer red maraschino cherries, but green ones (or a mixture of green and red) can add a seasonally festive touch to the cookies.
- I know from experience that these cookies keep well when stored in airtight containers at room temperature. I’ve never frozen them. I would assume that freezing works, but I can’t testify that it does.
- The Washington Post has an interesting alternative recipe for Cherry Winks that includes almond extract but not dates. It also calls for toasting the pecans, which is an interesting idea.
- The original recipe was created by Ruth Derousseau of Rice Lake Wisconsin, who won the Junior First Prize for these cookies in 1950 at the second Pillsbury Bake-Off contest.
- The Bake-Off contests originally were held yearly. Starting in 1978, they became an every-other-year affair. For more history about the contest, see Pillsbury’s Bake-Off contest history webpage.
Christmastime Is Cookie Time
As you’ve probably noticed by now, cookies are synonymous with Christmas at the Kitchen Riffs household. In the past couple of months, we’ve discussed three types of cookies that appeared around holiday time when I was growing up: Pfeffernüsse, the Best Chocolate Drop Cookie, and now Cherry Winks.
There are many more great cookies I want to share. They’ll have to wait until next year, though.
In December 2012, we’ll again be cookie crazed here at Kitchen Riffs. So mark your calendar!
You may also enjoy reading about:
The Best Chocolate Drop Cookie Ever
Easy Peach Cobbler
Rich and Easy Bread Pudding
Homemade Meringjues with Strawberry Sauce