Get Ready for Valentine’s Day with these Chocolate Recipes

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Happy Chocolate Covered Cherry Day!


Established in 1864, Cella’s Confections was one of a number of confectionary businesses in New York. Beginning in 1929, Cella’s Confections began manufacturing chocolate-covered cherries at their candy factory on West Broadway at Canal Street in New York.

Although in the 19th century this was New York’s confectionery district, today, they are the only remaining candy factory in the area. In 1985, Tootsie Roll Industries acquired Cella’s and continued to tradition of the liquid center cherry confection.

There are three major manufacturers of chocolate-covered cherries: Cella’s, Queen Anne (World’s Finest Division) and Russell Stover. They are all produced essentially the same with a fondant-based liquid center and a milk or dark chocolate coating. The trick to the liquid center is the use of invertase which breaks down the sugar-based fondant into liquid over a period of a week to ten days. An alcohol like brandy will also produce a liquid center over a few days.

Some people love them, some hate them, but no one can argue that they are a candy tradition that never seems to lose its steam. We make chocolate-covered cherries every February—using Spanish Morello cherries and a premium cherry brandy and Belgian chocolate, we think they are pretty special. And well worth the time. Just plan ahead because these beautiful bon bons need to sit at room temperature in order to develop the taste and liquid center your friends or loved one expects.

This recipe by Elizabeth LaBau (2011 Elizbeth LaBau, via About.com), uses maraschino cherries with stems—a cool and easy way to prepare and present this traditional confection.

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

Yield: 40 chocolate-covered cherries

Ingredients

40 maraschino cherries with stems (about one 20-oz jar)

1/4 cup (2 oz) butter, softened to room temperature

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

2 tablespoon reserved cherry liquid or cherry brandy (suggest Trimbach Kirsch)

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 teaspoon liquid invertase

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate

Directions

The day before you want to make the chocolate-covered cherries, drain the cherries from their soaking liquid and reserve 2 tbsp of the liquid. Pat them dry between sheets of paper towel, and let them sit on a wire rack overnight to dry.

The next day, prepare the fondant filling. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, corn syrup, reserved cherry liquid, almond extract, and liquid invertase, and beat until combined. It is okay if the butter separates at this point—it will all come together soon.

Stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar to the bowl, then mix on low speed until the candy comes together in a ball around the mixing paddle. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated, and check the texture of the candy: it should be quite soft, but not so sticky that you cannot handle it. If necessary, add a little more powdered sugar to make it workable, but remember: the softer it is to begin with, the sooner it will liquefy!

Use a small candy scoop or a teaspoon to form a quarter-sized ball of fondant, and roll it in your hands to get it round. Flatten the ball between your palms, and place a cherry in the center of the fondant. Bring together the outer edges and pinch the fondant together at the top where the stem extends from the cherry. Make sure the cherry is covered completely, then roll it between your palms to smooth out any seams or wrinkles and get it round. Place the cherry on a waxed paper-covered baking sheet, then repeat with the remaining cherries until they are all covered with fondant.

Because the fondant is fairly soft, it needs to be refrigerated before you can dip the cherries. Refrigerate the tray until the fondant feels firm, at least 30 minutes.

While you are waiting for the fondant to firm up, temper the chocolate, and prepare a place in your kitchen to dip the cherries. If you are not familiar with tempering, there are a number of online resources you can use. You can also refer to our June 10, 2011 classic bittersweet truffle post for tips. Untempered chocolate gets soft at room temperature and is not the good choice for this candy.

When the fondant is firm, begin the dipping process. We’ll first dip just the bottoms of the cherries to help prevent leaks later on. Holding a cherry by the stem, dip just the bottom in the chocolate, coming about 1/4-inch up the sides of the cherry. Place the cherry back on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining cherries. When the center liquefies, it will leak out of any weak spots in the chocolate coating, and the bottom of a dipped candy is a notoriously weak spot. Double-dipping the bottom ensures a strong coating and reduces the possibility of leaky chocolate cherries.

By the time you have finished dipping the bottom of the last cherry, the first cherry is probably set and ready to be fully dipped. (If not, refrigerate the tray briefly to set the chocolate bottoms.) Hold a cherry by the stem and drag it through the chocolate, coating it completely. Be sure that there is absolutely no fondant showing through anywhere. It’s better to coat a little of the stem with chocolate, as well, just to be sure liquid fondant doesn’t bubble through the top where the stem extends from the chocolate. When it is fully covered with chocolate, let the excess drip over the bowl, then gently drag the bottom edge over the lip of the bowl to remove any excess. Replace the cherry on the baking sheet and repeat until all of the cherries are covered with chocolate.

And now for the tough part: the waiting! While the cherries can be enjoyed as soon as the chocolate is hard, to get liquid centers you will have to wait anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. (The exact time depends on the strength of your invertase.) Store the cherries at warm room temperature during this time—cold temperatures will slow the working of the invertase. You can start testing the cherries after 2-3 days, and continue to monitor their progress via the occasional taste test until the centers are completely liquid. Enjoy your chocolate-covered cherries!

 photo courtesy of sodahead.com

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