Melissa Carestia is creative by nature, and every project — whether in the studio or kitchen — is a work of art.
The Scranton resident has a knack for baking, a trait passed down from her grandmother, the late Dorothy Langbein, and she makes everything from elaborate cupcakes to cookies with a theme.
Her recipe for Chocolate Cherry Cookies is no exception, as the red-hued treat goes along with Carestia’s role as a board member of Scranton Fringe Festival.
“It’s always a production. I went to art school,” she said, laughing, inside the home she shares with her boyfriend, Tucker Hottes. “I have tons of cookie recipes, but Fringe’s whole branding is red, and Chocolate Cherry Cookies made perfect sense.”
The recipe earned the performing and visual arts festival a $50 grocery gift card through Local Flavor Gives Back.
Carestia noted the recipe — which is similar to Peanut Butter Blossoms, peanut butter-flavored cookies with a milk chocolate Hershey’s Kiss in the center — is very straightforward. Bakers should make sure to chill the dough before working with it to ensure it’s not too sticky. Carestia typically chills hers overnight, but she recommends letting the dough sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
She also added that bakers should not make the balls too big; 1-inch wide typically is the perfect size.
Carestia’s Chocolate Cherry Cookies mixed savory dark chocolate with sweet, tart cherry. Just moist enough, the cookie still had a nice crunch along the bottom. While Local Flavor has tasted the peanut butter-and-milk-chocolate variety, the dark chocolate and cherry kind made for a tasty twist on the classic cookie.
This year’s Scranton Fringe Festival, the fifth, takes place from Friday, Sept. 27, through Sunday, Oct. 6. Applications for this year’s performances are open until Sunday, April 7. Visual Fringe applications will be accepted within the next few months.
Carestia noted the festival expanded to year-round programming a few years ago, and it keeps in line with the nonprofit’s mission to remain community-minded with an eye on global arts. Scranton Fringe added the regional story slams to its umbrella and also hosts events throughout the year, including a comedy show that took place last month. On Friday, May 3, Scranton Fringe will be part of Scranton Area Community Foundation’s NEPA Match Day. For every dollar Scranton Fringe raises, the foundation will match the gifts, up to $1,000.
Fringe’s mission is to provide a place for artists to perform new material or take a risk with a show or exhibit without a ton of overhead costs. The festival also gives the Scranton area a chance to experience unique music, theater, dance, film and visual arts for an affordable ticket price while bringing revenue to local venues and businesses.
It’s good for Fringe and good for the community, Carestia said, which is just as sweet as a Chocolate Cherry Cookie.
“We love to be a part of the community here in Scranton and in the Fringe world,” Carestia said. “We’re just doing what we think will benefit this area and its artists and audiences the most, and other festivals recognize us and see what we’re doing. That’s a pretty cool feeling.”
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Melissa Carestia’s Chocolate Cherry Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cherry juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chopped cherries
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Blend butter, sugar, cherry juice, almond extract and cherries. Mix in flour and salt. Chill dough for at least an hour.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls, then roll balls in granulated sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 F. Remove from oven and place one Hershey’s Kiss on top of each cookie. Move to cooling rack.
of the Fringe
Applications for this year’s Scranton Fringe Festival — which runs from Friday, Sept. 27, through Sunday, Oct. 6 — are open until Sunday, April 7. To apply or for more information, visit scrantonfringe.org/apply.