You know that the holidays have arrived here at Chiot’s Run when you see chocolate covered cherries on the counter. I usually try to start making my famous chocolate covered cherries the week after Thanksgiving. This year, I was too busy so I started last Wednesday evening. I don’t really making cookies during this season, I spend my time making chocolate covered cherries and a few peanut butter cups. I also make a few batches of caramel corn for the wonderful people at the post office and the library.
These cherries are famous. A week or two before Thanksgiving people start asking about them, wondering if I’ve started making them yet. They want to make sure I remember to make them and they want to make sure I remember that they’re on “the list”.
Making cherries isn’t difficult, but it is time consuming, especially if you use real chocolate that you have to temper (which I use on about 2/3 of my cherries). It’s as simple as making a fondant to wrap around the cherries and then dipping them in chocolate. I’ve developed a few tips during my 10 year cherry dipping career. The fondant recipe below is the best, I’ve tried 10-15 different recipes and this is the easiest to work with because of the corn syrup. You can buy non-GMO corn syrup at your health food store if you’d like. Using anything else; milk, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, etc. makes the fondant stickier and much harder to wrap around the cherries without a big mess!
Make sure you get the fondant fairly thin, too thick and it won’t turn into liquid. I cut the fondant into small balls and knead each piece, then flatten into a disc to wrap around each cherry. Kneading the fondant makes it smooth and warms it making it more pliable for easy wrapping. You don’t have to chill your fondant if your kitchen is cool.
I find that wrapping the disc around each cherry, then cutting off any excess before rolling works perfectly. I lightly roll them between my hands to smooth out the fondant, don’t use too much pressure or you’ll make the cherry leak juice which will turn your fondant into a sticky mess. Keeping a bowl of confectioners’ sugar close for dipping your hands and cherries into will help in case this happens. If you have a cherry that starts to produce juice too soon, simply dip in powdered sugar and then roll lightly between hands. Keep a wet rag and a dry towel around as well to clean your hands every so often. This keeps the process moving along smoothly.
I have found that putting parchment paper on the the cookie sheet and coating it with shortening makes it much easier to remove the cherries once they’re cooled and set. If you don’t do this they often stick, when when you pick them up they leave a small bit of fondant stuck to the sheet and then they start to leak juice.
Make sure you chill your cherries for at least an hour in the fridge before dipping. If you don’t allow the fondant to cool and set up, it will have a tendency to melt with the heat of the chocolate and start to drip off the cherries with the chocolate.
CHOCOLATE COVERED CHERRIES
50 maraschino cherries, well drained
3 tablespoons room temperature butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 pounds dipping chocolate, white or dark
Combine butter, corn syrup and salt; blend until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix well. Knead until smooth and shiny; wrap in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes (if your kitchen is cool this may not be needed).
Meanwhile, drain cherries. Shape a marble-size piece of fondant around each cherry; place on wax paper-lined tray. Chill until firm, about 2 hours.
Melt chocolate according to kind you’re using (tempering real chocolate or simply melting to dipping consistency for chocolate coating). Dip cherries and place on wax paper-lined tray (I find those tiny muffin cups to be perfect, especially if you’re making different kinds (brandied & regular), they’re easy to keep separate if you use different colored cups for each kind). Store in covered container in a, cool dark place for 10 to 14 days to fully ripen and to attain the “liquidy” inside.
Soak cherries in brandy for a minimum of 2 days (I soak mine for up to 1 year, but a week or two will do). Omit almond extract and add 1/2 teaspoon brandy flavoring or brandy instead. Follow recipe as stated above.
Next year I’m going to try to make my own maraschino cherries. I’m sure these will be even more delicious if I use fresh local cherries. I may even leave the pits in them to provide the natural almond flavor that comes from cherry stones. I’ll have to find a farm where I can pick them myself so I can make sure I get some with stems.
What are you famous for during the holidays? Or what is someone else famous for that you love?