Society divides pretty evenly into people who like chocolate-covered cherries and those who don’t, into those who buy and eat them by the boxful and those who accidentally bite into one in a sampler and hastily tuck it back, hoping nobody will notice. I’m the latter, married to the former, inexplicably enough, and if I have to eat one, the homemade version is vastly superior to the kind my husband occasionally buys at the drugstore. Don’t worry about putting a little extra fat or shortening in the chocolate it’s just a trick to make the finished coating smoother and shinier without complicated “tempering.” Some people use food-grade paraffin instead. You can skip it, if you like, but your candy may not be as pretty. The stem on the cherry makes the perfect dipping handle, but if yours don’t have stems, use a toothpick to dip each one, then dab a little chocolate over the hole where you remove the toothpick to make an airtight chocolate shell. Make the cherries about 1 week before you want to serve them to let the fondant centers liquefy in their chocolate shells.
- Yield: 3 Dozen candies
- 1 jar (20 ounces) maraschino cherries with stems, in heavy syrup
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus a little more as needed
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
- 3 cups (18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (or about 1 pound “coating” chocolate, such as dark chocolate bark)
- 1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening or vegetable oil
- Reserve 1 tablespoon of the cherry juice, then drain the cherries and gently pat them dry with paper towels, being careful to leave the stems attached. Let them sit on paper towels while you prepare the fondant. Line two baking sheets with wax or parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, corn syrup, reserved cherry liquid, and the almond extract, if using. Stir to blend. Turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and knead until it is smooth and pliable, adding 1 or 2 more tablespoons confectioners’ sugar if needed to make a firm fondant. (If your kitchen is very warm, you may need to chill it for 30 minutes in the refrigerator to stiffen it up.)
- Wrap about 1½ teaspoons of fondant all the way around each cherry. Line up the covered cherries on the prepared baking sheets and place them in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up.
- While the cherries are chilling, melt the chocolate and the shortening or oil in a double boiler, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat, but keep the chocolate over the warm water.
- Holding each cherry by the stem, dip it in the chocolate, turning it to coat all sides. Place the cherry back on the baking sheet; repeat the process until all are dipped (you may need to tip the chocolate container a bit toward the end so each cherry gets fully covered). Store them in a single layer in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 month.