I love giving gifts from the kitchen. Unlike Christmas, I only have one recipient on my list for Valentine's Day: my husband.
A few years ago, I made my husband a batch of Chocolate Covered Cherries for Valentine's Day. He loved them so I'm making them for him again this year. If you want to make them for your Valentine, you'll need to get started because they need to be made several days in advance. The recipe makes approximately 5 dozen, but you can halve the recipe.
The cherries need to be thoroughly drained. I drain them in a colander for an hour before placing them on a double layer of paper towels. Make sure to put a piece of waxed paper under the towels. If you don't, you'll be cleaning stains off the counter. Let the cherries sit on the paper towels an hour and then dry each cherry individually.
While the cherries drain on the paper towels, I make a fondant with sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup and powdered sugar. The recipe calls for 4 1/2 to 5 cups of powdered sugar. Start with 4 1/2 cups and add more if it's needed. You can mix the fondant with a spoon until it's too thick to stir. At that point, you'll have to knead the remaining powdered sugar in with your hands. Fondant dries out easily so make sure to cover the bowl with a towel when you're not using it.
Once the cherries are completely dry and the fondant made, you're ready to wrap the cherries with the fondant. It's imperative the cherries are completely dry before adding the fondant. Wet cherries plus fondant equals a sticky mess!
There's two ways to put the fondant on the cherries. One, you can pinch off some fondant and wrap it around the cherries.
Two, you can roll the fondant on a cutting board with a fondant rolling pin.
You don't need to sprinkle the cutting board, rolling pin or fondant with anything before it's rolled. I prefer rolling the fondant in small batches and cutting pieces to wrap around the cherries.
Put the wrapped cherry, stem side up, on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Once all the cherries are wrapped, put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for the fondant to get firm.
While the cherries are in the refrigerator, melt the chocolate coating. I use a 1 1/2-quart crock-pot to melt the coating. The crock-pot keeps the temperature consistent so I don't have to remelt the coating. Like any other chocolate, the coating retains its shape until it's stirred. Once the chocolate coating is melted and smooth, you're ready to dip the cherries.
Holding onto the stem, dip one cherry at a time in the melted chocolate. This is easy to do when the pot is full of chocolate. When the chocolate level gets low, dip one side of the cherry into the chocolate at an angle. Lift the cherry up slightly and dip the other side into the chocolate the same way. Hold the stem and gently spin the cherry in the pot to remove the excess chocolate. Since this is the first coating, it's ok if the entire cherry isn't covered in chocolate. Put the cherries back on the waxed paper lined cookie sheet and put them in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
Once the chocolate coating is hard, dip the cherries into the chocolate coating again. You may find using a spoon the easiest way to cover the cherries with the remaining chocolate. This is the final coating so make sure the entire cherry is completely covered with chocolate. Once again, hold the stem and spin the cherry to remove the excess coating. Put the cherries on a clean piece of waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Cover the pan loosely with wax paper and put the pan in a cool place overnight.
The next day, remove any excess dried coating from the cherries. The easiest way to do this is with a table knife. Using the dull side of the knife, run the blade around the coating, scraping off the excess chocolate. Put the cherries back on the waxed paper lined cookie sheet and cover loosely with waxed paper.
Let the cherries sit in a cool place for five more days. An amazing thing happens during this time. The fondant softens and liquefies making a sticky, tasty, gooey center.
I like to think outside the "heart shaped" box when I package the cherries. I like to put the cherries in a martini or wine glass or a champagne flute. Over the years, I've found Valentine themed glasses that I use, but plain glasses are fine too.
You may have noticed I didn't say this recipe was easy. It is the most time consuming recipe in my recipe box. That's why I don't make Chocolate Covered Cherries except for Valentine's Day every few years. It is truly a labor of love for the one I love.