Every Christmas season Mom and Gram made them, mountains of them, Cherry Wink cookies. It signaled the kickoff of everything I liked about the Christmas season, except Cherry Winks. I wanted cookies topped with frosting and colorful sprinkles and filled with chocolate chips, not dates.
From a vantage point of just a little higher than the counter, I pondered the growing stacks of golden brown cookies with shiny cherries at the centers. It was that one ingredient that kept me far away. Yep. No two ways about it, dates looked yucky sitting on the cutting board and I didn’t like to think about them in my cookies. Their non-sprinkleness almost mocked me. After a few attempts at trying to pick around the dates I opted out of trying to like Cherry Winks - ever. It was a lot of effort to work around dates for such a tiny reward.
Through many years Mom continued to make Cherry Wink cookies at Christmas time and I continued to not eat them until one day. I dropped by Mom’s one afternoon and she had just finished making a batch. They were cooling on the counter.
“You are still making those wadda-ya-call-em, Winkie cookies, huh?" I asked her.
“Yeah, want some?” She asked with a grin.
“You know that answer,” I said noticing how pretty the shiny Maraschino Cherry centers looked.
Mom left the room for just a minute or two and for some reason I couldn't keep my eyes off the Cherry Winks. One tentative bite was a prelude to stuffing cookie after cookie in my yap. Was it the glossy red cherry, the warm, toasty brown sugary scent, or the golden texture that prompted my feeding frenzy? How is it possible that these are SO GREAT, you know, considering the dates and all? What was I thinking of for all those years? She eyed a mostly empty plate and crumbs when she returned to the kitchen.
“Wow, were you making up for lost time?” she asked.
“Oops." I gulped and grinned like a Cheshire cat. "I’m not sorry. Why didn't you tell me how GREAT these are?”
Mom showed up at our house the next day with a fresh new plate of “Winkies”. I can tell you without too much shame; the Husband and the Kid hardly stood a chance against me.
My version of Cherry Winks is simply making them in a different form. Since that day of discovery I have lovingly called these delicious morsels Winkies. They have become my any time of year, favorite cookie – ever. I think Gram would have liked that.
Cherry Winks (AKA Winkies)
Recipe Courtesy of Gram and Mom (and now me too)
Temperature 375 degrees for 10-14 minutes, makes approximately two dozen cookie pops
2-1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Teaspoon baking powder
½ Teaspoon baking soda
½ Teaspoon salt
¾ Cup unsalted butter (softened)
1 Cup sugar
2 Large eggs
2 Tablespoons milk
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup pecans
1 Cup dates
1/3 Cup Maraschino Cherries
2-1/2 Cups corn flakes
Small bag of white chocolate or milk chocolate chips
A pretty container for your finished pops
Toast pecans in a nonstick pan on low (stay with them, they burn fast!) stir occasionally until you can smell the pecans. Set aside to cool. Chop dates and cherries, saving slices of half or quarter (whatever you prefer) cherries for the tops of your pops. Chop cooled pecans. Crush corn flakes into small pieces.
Combine softened butter and sugar and cream well. Add eggs, vanilla and milk, mix well.
Add baking powder, baking soda and salt to flour and add gradually to creamed mixture.
Add pecans, dates and chopped cherries, mix well.
Form dough into balls, roll in crushed corn flakes, put into a greased silicone pop maker, and place on a cookie sheet, bake at 375 for 10-14 minutes. While the cookie balls bake, melt white or milk chocolate chips over a double boiler.
While cookie balls are still warm, poke a hole with a sucker stick about half way through each ball. Dip one end of the stick into melted chocolate, insert into cookie ball, and wipe off excess. Let cool. Take a toothpick and add a small dot of melted chocolate to the underside of the cherry slice and place on top. Display in a pretty container.