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Behind the Scenes on Amanda & Merrill's Cookies for the Food52 Holiday Cookie Truck

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Which one will be victorious?
Which one will be victorious? Photo by Alpha Smoot

Remember back in October, when Food52 cofounders Amanda and Merrill asked for your advice in developing their cookie recipes for a showdown on the Food52 Holiday Cookie Truck? No? Here's a refresher!

Now the truck is almost here (it'll be driving around New York City this December 7th to 13th delivering cookies and good cheer, thanks to Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and Amanda and Merrill brought their A game and dreamed up two pretty spectacular cookies, with your help.

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Look out for this truckful of joy December 7th to 13th in NYC.
Look out for this truckful of joy December 7th to 13th in NYC.

In search of cookies that would end all each others' cookies, there were hours of comment reading, recipe testing, a bizarre warm-up game we named Cookie Tac Toe, and more sugar, spice, and chocolate than anyone thought possible. At the end of it all, two strong contenders emerged: Merrill's Chocolate Almond Cherry Cookies and Amanda's Chewy Vanilla Spice Cookies with Chocolate Chunks (Vegan, too!). Read on below for how A&M came up with their recipes.

Photo by Alpha Smoot

In this corner, Merrill Stubbs:

After reading through all of your great comments, I knew I wanted a cookie that combined chocolate and fruit (I realize this is is polarizing, but I am staunchly pro). Per Samantha Weiss Hills's suggestion, I set my sights on jam and went through a few rounds of chocolate thumbprint cookies, adding different amounts of cocoa powder and ground pecans to this thumbprint recipe, recommended by Sara Dougherty. Sadly, the cookies were lackluster.

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I turned next to an office favorite, World Peace Cookies. They're crumbly, deeply infused with cocoa and not overly sweet. However, while they may be able to inspire world peace (and perform various other miracles), it turns out they do not make a good thumbprint.

Feeling dejected, I decided to let go of the jam. Re-reading the comments, I came upon Droplet's suggestion of dried fruit, so I went out and bought some really plump, tangy dried cherries. I chopped them up, swapped in almond flour for most of the AP flour in the World Peace recipe, and tripled the salt. Instead of forming the dough into a log and slicing it into well-behaved rounds, I went part-way down the thumbprint path, rolling it into balls and coating them in plain sugar before baking.

The texture of the cookies still has some sandiness to it, but there's a slight give that follows after, so they're not 100% crumbly. The salt keeps the richness of the cocoa from taking over, and the sugar on the outside gives the cookies a little crunch. The cherries are chewy, sour little bursts that balance out the pockets of chopped chocolate.

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Soft Chocolate Almond Cherry Cookies

Cbfb27ea 071f 4941 9183 30dce4007b50  merrill Merrill Stubbs
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Makes about 36 cookies
  • 125 grams almond flour
  • 50 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
  • teaspoons flaky sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (pieces should be 1/3 inch or smaller)
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
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Photo by Alpha Smoot

In that corner, Amanda Hesser:

I originally set out to make a chocolate ginger cookie, and wrote to the community: "I'm looking for something that's chewy in the center with a crisp perimeter, a little salty and not too sweet." Thanks to Heather, I started with an inspiration from The Ad Hoc Cookbook, and I combined its merits with another go-to of mine: the Chocolate Gingerbread Cookie from Martha Stewart. But once I got in the kitchen, all I ended up with was a dry, over-gingered, recalcitrant cookie. 

A few days after my failed experimentation, I tasted the Ovenly Chocolate Chip Cookies that Kristen Miglore made for Genius Recipes, and was struck by the fact that the best two cookies I've had in the past month were both oil-based—this and a Salted Double-Chocolate Olive Oil Cookie. I didn't know you could make a decent cookie without butter. Sorry butter! An oil-based cookie became my obsession. 

My evil plot thickened: not only would my cookie be chewy and a little crisp and chocolatey, but it would also be vegan, and I'd win all the vegan votes! Mwahahaha!! Working with Ovenly's base, I made a bunch of flavor changes, moving it away from a traditional chocolate chip cookie toward something that's more spiced, a little hot even, with a whole vanilla bean ground into the sugar, an infusion of cinnamon and chile, and quite a bit more chocolate. Because why not? 

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Chewy Vanilla Spice Cookies with Chocolate Chunks (Vegan, too!)

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66 Save Recipe
Makes 20 cookies
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (preferably Saigon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (rounded) ground chile (I used piment d'espelette)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup 1 tablespoon water
  • Flaky sea salt, like Maldon, for sprinkling
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To find out more about The Food52 Holiday Cookie Truck, head here. Follow along, come snag some cookies (or bake them yourself!), and don't forget to vote! Will #TeamAmanda or #TeamMerrill take home the glory—and the bragging rights? You'll be the judge of that.

Photo by Alpha Smoot

Our magical menu genie will plan your holiay feast for you.