Cherries and chocolate are perfect couple for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day and sweet treats go hand in hand, and what better than the flavorful combination of
Sweet Cherry-Chocolate Bombe combines two great flavors into an ideal treat for Valentine’s Day.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Sweet Cherry-Chocolate Bombe combines two great flavors into an ideal treat for Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day and sweet treats go hand in hand, and what better than the flavorful combination of chocolate and cherries? With this classic duo, you can definitely think outside the box — that is, outside the box of cherry cordials. Both cherries and chocolate come in a variety of forms, so the possibilities are endless.

The range of cherry flavors, from the sweet maraschino cherries (cherries that have been macerated in a flavored sugar syrup) to sour cherries and the different types of chocolate, from white to bittersweet, increase the combinations exponentially. How a person puts them together is really a case of personal choice.

“I like fruit and chocolate together,” said Linda Stahl of the Hershey Test Kitchen. “Cherries are a sweet fruit, but at the same time, there’s just a hint of tartness there that is offset by the sweetness of the chocolate, so it’s just a nice blend,” she said.

Local pastry chef and Schenectady County Community College instructor Gail Sokol, author of “About Professional Baking,” likes the combination of bittersweet chocolate with cherries. “Chocolate has this earthy quality, and sometimes the more bitter it is, the better it is with something like cherries,” Sokol said.

It is the opposition of flavors that makes them a good combination. “Cherries are very sweet, so bittersweet chocolate would be the best choice with a cherry product because of those opposites,” Sokol said.

How one uses the cherries depends on their form. Dry cherries can be added to baked goods such as brownies and cookies. To draw out their flavor and make it more vibrant, you could soak them in a liqueur before adding them to the recipe, Sokol suggests.

If you’re using fresh, canned or maraschino cherries, you need to consider their water content before combining them with chocolate. Sokol explains that chocolate is very sensitive to water because of some of the natural starches in the cocoa solids. So when you’re combining it with cherries, you need to be mindful of that.

For example, when you’re working with maraschino cherries, it’s important to dry them first, and not just a light blotting with paper towels, but really taking a lot of moisture out, Stahl said.

If you’re doing something simple like fresh cherries dipped in chocolate, the same rule applies. “Wash them, pit them, and make them very, very dry,” Sokol said.

Stahl said that the most important thing is to follow the recipe carefully the first time you make something before changing anything. “Everybody tweaks a recipe,” she said. “You could add more cherries or less cherries or something like that, but the first time through, you want to really follow your recipe.”

Canned cherries and cherry pie filling work well as fillings and sauces.

The different forms and varieties of both cherries and chocolate beg for experimentation, but whatever the combination, it’ll be delectable. “They play off each other very nicely,” Sokol said.

Sweet Cherry-Chocolate Bombe

Recipe courtesy of Hershey’s.

Sweet cherry sauce (recipe follows)

1 (16-ounce) frozen pound cake, thawed

3 tablespoons almond-flavored liqueur (optional)

3⁄4 cup Hershey’s Mini Chips Semi-Sweet Chocolate

11⁄4 cups cold whipping cream

1 package (6-serving size) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix

2 cups half & half or milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

Cocoa whipped cream (recipe follows)

Prepare sweet cherry sauce. Line 21⁄2-quart bowl with foil.

Slice pound cake into 1⁄2-inch thick slices. Completely line bottom and sides of prepared bowl with cake slices, cutting some slices into triangles to fit. Sprinkle cake slices with liqueur, if desired. Set aside remaining slices.

Place chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium (50 percent) 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Beat 11⁄4 cups whipping cream in small bowl until soft peaks form. Prepare pudding mix in large bowl as directed on package using 2 cups half-and-half. Gently fold whipped cream and almond extract into prepared pudding. Divide mixture in half; set aside.

Remove about 2⁄3 cup cherries from sweet cherry sauce, reserving sauce. Chop half of cherries into quarters (return remaining cherries to reserved sauce). Stir chopped cherries into one-half of pudding mixture; spread evenly on bottom and up sides of prepared bowl, completely covering cake. Gradually fold melted chocolate into remaining pudding mixture until well-combined; fill center of mold. Top dessert with remaining cake slices, cutting some slices to fit and cover top completely.

Cover with foil; freeze overnight. Unmold dessert onto chilled serving plate; remove foil. Prepare Cocoa whipped cream; frost dessert. Decorate with fresh cherries and chocolate curls, if desired. Slice and serve with remaining Sweet cherry sauce. Store leftover dessert in freezer. 12 to 16 servings.

Cocoa Whipped Cream: Stir together 1⁄3 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons Hershey’s Cocoa in small bowl; add 3⁄4 cup cold whipping cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; beat until stiff.

Sweet Cherry Sauce

2 cups fresh sweet cherries

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2⁄3 cup water

1 tablespoon cherry or orange-flavored liqueur (optional)

1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash, cut in half and pit cherries; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cherries; simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Cool; refrigerate.

Chocolate Cherry Valentine Torte

Recipe courtesy of Hershey’s.

2 eggs, separated

11⁄2 cups sugar, divided

11⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup Hershey’s Cocoa

3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk*

Cream filling (recipe follows)

Chocolate whipped cream (recipe follows)

1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling, chilled

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three heart-shaped baking pans or three 9-inch round baking pans. **

Beat egg whites in small bowl until foamy; gradually add 1⁄2 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Stir together flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add oil, buttermilk and egg yolks; beat until smooth. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Pour about 12⁄3 cups batter into each prepared pan.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Bake remaining layer, if necessary. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.

Prepare Cream filling. Place 1 layer on serving plate; pipe or spoon 1-inch border 1⁄2 inch thick around outer edge of layer. Spread half of pie filling in center. Top with second cake layer. Spread layer with half of remaining cream filling. Top with third layer. Spoon remaining pie filling on top of cake to within 1 inch of edge.

Prepare chocolate whipped cream; frost sides of cake. Pipe top edge with remaining cream filling. Refrigerate until serving time. Cover; store leftover torte in refrigeraor. 8 to 10 servings.

* To sour milk: Use 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.

** If only two pans are available, reserve remaining batter in refrigerator for the third layer while first 2 layers bake.

Cream filling: In bowl, combine 1 cup cold whipping cream with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; beat until stiff.

Chocolate whipped cream: In bowl, combine 1⁄2 cup sugar and 1⁄4 cup Hershey’s Cocoa. Add 1 cup cold whipping cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; beat on low speed to blend. Beat on high speed until stiff.

Chocolate Cherry Walnut Rugalach

Recipe by chef Gail Sokol.

Dough:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1⁄2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped

11⁄3 cups walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Confectioners’ sugar for rolling

In a medium saucepan, heat the heavy cream until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the semisweet chocolate chips. Cool until slightly thickened. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and the butter until they are thoroughly blended. On low speed, add the flour.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and shape it into a rough rectangle. Chill the dough until it becomes firm, about 8 hours and up to 3 days. Note: to speed this process along, the dough can be placed in the freezer for approximately 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a dough cutter, cut the dough into four equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time, rewrap the remaining three pieces and keep them refrigerated until needed.

Using a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch by 8-inch rectangle. Using two offset spatulas, transfer the rectangle to a sheet pan covered with wax paper. Chill in the refrigerator.

Roll out the remaining three pieces of dough in the same manner, placing each one on top of the original with pieces of wax paper in between each rectangle.

Take the wax paper with the first rectangle of dough and place it on a work surface. Cover the remaining rectangles with plastic wrap and chill.

Using an offset spatula, spread 1⁄4 cup of the chocolate and cream mixture evenly over the rectangle. Sprinkle 1⁄4 cup of the cherries and 1⁄3 cup of the walnuts evenly over the chocolate. Press down gently on the cherries and nuts so they stick into the chocolate.

Bring the reserved parchment covered sheet pans nearby the work surface. Using the wax paper as a guide, tightly roll the dough into a cylinder rolling with the largest end of the dough closest to you. Place the cylinder toward one side of one of the sheet pans. Using a sharp knife or a dough cutter, make cuts (not all the way through the dough) at 1-inch intervals along the log.

Repeat filling and rolling the remaining rectangles of dough and place them onto the sheet pans, leaving a space between the cylinders. There should be two logs per sheet pan.

Bake the rugalach for approximately 45 to 50 minutes or until they are golden brown. Cool the rugalach until they are warm. Using spatulas, transfer the cylinders to a cutting board and cut through each half cut section until individual cookies are formed.

Roll each rugalach in confectioners’ sugar. Makes approximately 31⁄2 to 4 dozen rugalach.

Cherry-Bright Chocolate Brownies

Recipe courtesy of Hershey’s.

1⁄2 cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained

1⁄3 cup butter or margarine, softened

3⁄4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon almond extract OR 2 tablespoons kirsch (cherry brandy)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄3 cup chopped slivered almonds

Additional maraschino cherries, halved (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch square baking pan.

Lightly press cherries between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture; set aside. Beat butter, sugar and eggs in medium bowl until creamy. Mix in corn syrup, almond extract and vanilla until well-blended. Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder; add to butter mixture, mixing until well blended. Stir in cherries and almonds; pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Frost, if desired. Cut into squares. Garnish with additional cherries, if desired. About 16 brownies.

White Fruit and Nut Bark

Recipe courtesy of Hershey’s.

2 cups (or 12-ounce package) Hershey’s Premier White Chips

1⁄2 cup chopped dried apricots

1⁄2 cup sweetened dried cranberries or dried cherries

1⁄2 cup salted pecans, walnuts or peanuts

Line cookie tray with waxed paper.

Place white chips in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50 percent) 1 minute; stir. If necessary, microwave at MEDIUM an additional 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and mixture is blended when stirred. Stir in apricots, cranberries (or cherries) and nuts.

Spread mixture on prepared tray. Cover; refrigerate until firm. Break into pieces. About 1 pound candy.

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