photo by Christina Williams
If you're looking for a quick, easy and absolutely delicious treat to make for a gift or party this Valentine's Day, I have the perfect thing. I began making chocolates over ten years ago and have sold them online over the years and always give them as gifts.
My Chocolate Cherry Clusters have always been one of my favorites. They are so easy and yummy. I would tell you to use a double boiler and get a quality block of European semi-sweet chocolate, but I know you are probably just as busy and on-a-budget as I am.
You can certainly go for the more expensive Belgium chocolate, but if you want to save time and money, by all means head for the baking aisle and get some chocolate baking chips. But all baking chips are not created equal. In my article Should Bad Chocolate Be Illegal, you'll find a paragraph towards the end about how to buy the best chocolate chips for cooking.
1. One 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2. One 12 oz. bag of milk chocolate chips
3. One jar of pitted maraschino cherries without the stem. (Usually found near the ice cream toppings like flavored dessert syrups.)
4. One tbsp real butter. (cannot use substitutes)
5. White chocolate for garnish-optional.
6. Small paper cups. Must be mini cupcake size. The candy cups are two small for this recipe.
1. Drain and rinse cherries and leave in collander to continue to drain. Set aside.
2. Put milk chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips in a glass bowl. I'll let you in on a little secret for the perfect melted chocolate. Most people use semi-sweet by itself when cooking with chocolate, but I've found that using a ratio of 2/3 semi-sweet to 1/3 milk chocolate adds the perfect level of sweetness. I usually just empty 2/3 of the 12 oz semi-sweet bag into the bowl and add in 1/3 of the milk chocolate bag. If I end up with extra melted chocolate, I simply grab some pretzels or fruit and dig in.
3. You can use a double boiler to melt the chocolate over the stove, but it's much easier to just pop it in the microwave. Heat it on high for one minute at a time, stirring each time. It should only take a few minutes.
4. Stop just before all of the chips are melted. Add in the butter and stir until it melts all the way. This is a quick way of tempering the chocolate.
5. Have all of your paper cups lined up on a cookie sheet (make sure it's one you can easily fit into your fridge.)
6. Now you can use any spoon to scoop the chocolate into the paper cups, but I like to use my tbsp measuring spoon and my 1/2 tbsp measuring spoon. I scoop with the larger spoon and use the bottom-side of the smaller spoon to easily scrape the chocolate out and into the paper cups. You can also use a plastic bag or pastry bag to squirt the chocolate into the cups. But if you are a beginner, I'd suggest you use spoons to avoid a messy catastrophe. It's different working with chocolate than batter.
7. If your cherries are still damp, take a paper towel or cloth and pat them dry. You don't want water mixing with the chocolate. Now take three cherries per chocolate and press them down into the cup as far as you can. Finish this with all of the cups then use your spoon or bag to put just enough chocolate over the tops. You can tap the cookie sheet on your counter to release air bubbles and to help the chocolate spread over the tops. You may still need to use a spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the cherries. You don't want any cherries showing. That'll make it a lot easier to package them without a sticky mess.
8. (optional) You can drizzle the tops with white chocolate or dark chocolate to add some interest and increase the flavor.
9. Place them in the fridge to set for about 30-45 minutes then package. You can find white candy boxes in the baking aisle of your craft store. Tie with ribbon for a professional look.