In the early 1960s, my mother visited a friend’s home and tasted a decadent, homemade chocolate. It left her in a state of euphoria! She was surprised to learn that it was a tradition in her friend’s home for the man of the house to make the chocolates. Soon my father and mother, having received the recipe, began their own tradition of creating delicious hand-dipped treats every Christmas.
During my first Christmas season as a married woman, I was dismayed to learn that my husband didn’t enjoy making these delicious sweets. He did, however, enjoy eating them. Although my mother usually created 125 chocolates from one recipe, I only made 60 huge, misshapen blobs. I cheerfully distributed them to my fellow teachers, placing one on each of their desks. They loved them, but I knew I could do better.
As my chocolate making skills improved, I developed my own tradition, based on the concept that sharing recipes is better than hoarding them. I began the annual pre-Christmas tradition of inviting someone I wanted to know better to visit my home for chocolate making. We mixed the fondant, wrapped each cherry, and enjoyed a quick lunch while the fondant covered chocolates rested in the freezer. The chocolate mixture had time to melt in a double boiler. After dipping and packaging the chocolates, it was time for my friend to go home. She took with her over 100 handmade masterpieces, the recipe, and one obligation; I asked my guest to invite a friend to her house, the next year, to make chocolates.
The making of these chocolates has accompanied my family through the worst of times and the best of times. The Christmas before my mother passed away, I invited her to participate in the tradition she started. I had no idea it would be her last Christmas. We took a picture. I cherish it. In January 2005, my daughter and I made several batches for her wedding. Heart-shaped platters filled with chocolates replaced the traditional wedding cake for the reception. We love the picture of the bride and groom dropping chocolates into each other's mouths.
Everyone who has ever consumed one of these chocolates remembers the moment their taste buds awakened to the flavour.
I am happy to share the recipe with you and a video showing my improved techniques.
Making Cherry Chocolates
A single recipe is as follows:
You will need 4 to 6 jars (250 ml) of maraschino cherries with stems. At Christmas, huge jars of cherries are available. If you buy a large jar, you will require approximately 125 cherries for one batch. Share the jar with a friend.
The Chocolate Mixture:
1 (225 gram) box of Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate
3 (36 gram) bars of Jersey Milk Chocolate; over the years, bar sizes have changed, so use about 108 grams.
1/3 of a cup of paraffin wax pellets; if you find paraffin wax blocks, use a piece 2” by 2 ½.”
1 kg bag of icing sugar
1 cup of butter, softened
¾ of a cup of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk (no more)
2 tablespoons of Rodgers Golden Syrup
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1. Open and drain the cherries in a colander first. Finish drying them on a paper towel covered cookie sheet. It is easier to roll fondant onto dry cherries.
2. In a large mixing bowl, blend the softened butter with the icing sugar. Once this is somewhat mixed, add the carefully measured condensed milk (not a drop extra).
Stir until the ingredients begin to stick together. Add the syrup and flavorings. Now, work into a moist paste with your hands. The fondant will look shiny and be soft when it is ready, a bit like uncooked shortbread.
3. Place wax paper on a cookie sheet and place it beside the bowl of fondant. Pick up one teaspoon of fondant (not too much), form a ball, press a cherry into the ball, and roll between your palms, until the fondant covers the cherry; watch the video. Sit the fondant-covered cherry on the wax papered pan and proceed. Once a sheet is covered, place the tray in a freezer and continue with another tray.
4. Once all the cherries have been wrapped in fondant and are in the freezer, place a double boiler on the stove with water in the lower pot. Place the wax in the bottom of the top pot first, followed by the Baker’s chocolate and then the Jersey Milk chocolate. Stir, often, until the mixture is smooth. Once the chocolate mixture is completely melted, turn the element down to medium-low, and bring a tray of fondant-covered cherries to the side of the stove. Holding each cherry by its stem, dip into the chocolate. You will need to lift your chocolate cherries out quickly and allow them to drip for a second. This is demonstrated in the video titled Making Cherry Chocolates. Once the chocolate stops dripping, place the chocolate covered treat back onto the wax paper-covered tray. The cold cherries cool the chocolate almost instantly. Put the chocolates back in the freezer until you are ready to package them.
NOTE: I save clear plastic egg cartons all year. I wash them and fill each dip with tiny paper candy cups. These are like petite muffin liners. I place one chocolate in each cup, bring the two egg carton covers over them, and tie a beautiful ribbon around the package.
Your recipe should provide you with about 120 chocolates. A gift of 12 is a major gift!
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