Growing up, one of my Dad’s favorite treats was a box of chocolate-covered cherries. I loved them too. Biting into the chocolate shell to reveal the sweet maraschino cherry inside was like opening a delicious present. But over the years, the boxed chocolate-covered cherries of old became less appealing. The quality went down, and they were more often a cheap chocolate shell filled with cherry-like goo. Next-to-none of the real thing.
While I certainly could have sought out a higher-quality confection from one of the fancy candy stores, I opted instead to attempt my own. I’ve made other candies – chocolate coconut candies, fudge, peanut butter cups, chocolate pecan pralines and more – so why not these?
Turns out, they were easier than I’d imagined. Making the fondant was a cinch, and without the testy nature of boiling sugar (like there is with pralines or caramels and such), this was a project I could do at my own pace and while working on other things in the kitchen without fear. The most difficult part in my opinion was remembering to set the cherries to dry out a bit the day before I wanted to make these – which really isn’t that difficult at all!
So whether you want to treat your Valentine this year to something special, or you just want to play candymaker in a new way, I encourage you to make your own chocolate-covered cherries! They’re sweet and delicious and well worth a little work.
Chocolate-Covered Cherries (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)
About 20 maraschino cherries (I used an 8 oz jar of these, as they have no dyes or corn syrup)
2 T butter or vegan buttery sticks (don’t use the vegan spread, as it has too much water), softened to room temperature
2 t agave nectar
1 1/2 T reserved cherry liquid
1/4 t almond extract
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
8 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate (I used Guittard)
The day before you want to make your chocolate-covered cherries, drain the cherries from their liquid (reserving the liquid) and pat dry. Set on a wire rack inside the refrigerator to dry overnight.
The following day, to prepare the fondant, add the butter/buttery stick, agave nectar, reserved cherry liquid, and almond extract and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar, and mix on low speed until everything comes together in a ball around the paddle. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of cherry liquid. Too sticky, add a bit of powdered sugar. You want the texture to be a soft and malleable dough, but not sticky.
Scoop a small ball with the dough (about the diameter of a quarter) and roll in your hand. Flatten out the dough into a circle, and place a cherry in the center. Wrap the cherry with the fondant so that it covers the cherry completely, and roll between your hands to get rid of any seams or wrinkles and make it as round as possible. Place on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining cherries. Place sheet of cherries in the refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes while you prepare the chocolate.
Temper the chocolate: Prepare a double boiler. Once water is simmering, add chocolate to the top bowl/pot. Allow to melt and come to about 113-120 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Scrape chocolate onto a cool marble slap, and using a scraper, smooth out the chocolate and move it around the slab to help it cool. (alternatively, you can reserve some “seed chocolate” and add it to the warm chocolate to cool it down.) Once it’s about 80 degrees F, scrape the chocolate back into the double boiler. Allow to come to about 90 degrees F, stirring occasionally, making sure not to warm it too much. Then it’s ready for dipping.
Dip each cherry into the chocolate, rolling around to coat completely. Place the cherry back on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cherries.
You can store the cherries in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Over the next few days, the fondant will soften and liquefy a bit (this will slow down considerably in the refrigerator). My photo shows them still with a solid fondant – they’re still delicious that way too!
Makes 20 chocolate-covered cherries.