Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sweets for your sweetie: Chocolate-covered Cherries

I wrote this story in December 2002 for The Dominion Post. Chocolate-covered cherries are not only a Christmastime treat. They are perfect to give at Valentine's Day. And they are not hard to make at all.



BY CYNTHIA McCLOUD
The Dominion Post
Crafting a holiday confection -- juicy cherries wrapped in sweet, creamy fondant and swathed with semisweet chocolate -- isn't as complicated as it tastes.
Sue Carpenter of Morgantown easily makes chocolate-covered cherries from a recipe she found in McCall's magazine in 1987.
"It said 'easy candy' and they are real simple to make," Carpenter said as she wrapped a thin layer of white fondant around a maraschino cherry at the dining room table in her South Park home.
As a member of the Morgantown Service League, Carpenter makes the cherries as refreshments for the group's annual holiday open house at the Old Stone House Gift Shop. She said she would like to sell them at Valentine's Day to benefit Morgantown Hospice, where she works.
The cherries take a few hours to make, but the steps can be done over several days when the maker gets time.
"You can start and stop at any point," Carpenter said.
The fondant can be mixed and refrigerated until the cook is ready to wrap the cherries. Then the wrapped cherries can be chilled until the cook is ready to dip them in melted chocolate.
"The more you've done it, the faster it goes," Carpenter said. "When you get into a rhythm, it doesn't take too long."
Carpenter has adapted the process as she's found what works better each time she's made the recipe.
"The first time I made it, I used too much fondant (on each cherry) and it was really much too sweet," Carpenter said.
The recipe says to use 1 teaspoon, but she uses a thinner layer of fondant, pressing it out in her hand before wrapping it around a cherry.
"If you didn't pick up enough to cover the cherry, you can pinch off more and add it," she said.
Because she uses less, she gets more cherries than the three dozen the recipe says.
"It's real important to have the cherries drained well," Carpenter said. "If it's juicy, it makes it soggy."
But if the fondant gets too wet, she pats a little more powdered sugar into it before she dips the cherry in chocolate.
"Dipping is really easy. You can melt (the chocolate) over and over," she said.
"One of the things that makes it easier to dip," Carpenter said. "I use more chocolate than it says so I'm not scraping the bowl to get the last cherry covered. Then you can use the leftover chocolate for something else."
She uses the maraschino cherries with stems for ease in dipping.
After the chocolate on the dipped candy has set up in the refrigerator, the cherries can be served at room temperature. Carpenter said she has never had them melt.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHERRIES
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 10-ounce jars maraschino cherries with stems, well-drained
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate pieces
2 tablespoons shortening
Line baking sheets with waxed paper. In a small bowl, cream butter, confectioners' sugar, milk and almond extract. If the mixture is too soft, add more sugar.
On a surface lightly sprinkled with confectioner's sugar, knead mixture into a ball. With fingers, flatten 1 teaspoon of dough into a two-inch round. With a flat metal spatula, lift the round; then mold it around a cherry to cover completely (leave stem exposed.) Place on prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Place the chocolate and shortening in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave on medium 3-5 minutes, stirring once a minute until smooth.
Holding cherry stem, dip cherry into chocolate, making sure to cover cherry completely and going 1/8-inch up stem. Shake off excess.
Place on waxed-paper-lined tray. Repeat with remaining cherries and chocolate. With spoon, drizzle leftover chocolate over cherries. Place in refrigerator 15 minutes to set. Refrigerate, covered. Serve at room temperature. Makes 3 dozen.

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