As Sweet As Candy

In truth, most of the chocolate confections we eat taste better from a mass-produced chocolatier than from our own kitchens. Chocolate is one of those specialty foods that requires proper training, techniques and tools to achieve consistent results. However, there are a few exceptions to this dilemma. Primarily, confections that are just coated in chocolate, rather than mostly chocolate, can be made in a home kitchen with professional results. Many chocolatiers have introduced high quality dipping candy, also known as candy melts, dipping chocolate, dipping wafers and the like. Unlike their real chocolate counterparts, these candies are chocolate flavored, don’t have to be tempered for optimal results, come in a variety of colors and won’t bloom during the cooling and setting process or over time.

Dipping candy is a bit more sturdy than real chocolate, so you have a bit more latitude in melting techniques. However, the double boiler method will still melt the candy without the fear of scorching it if it’s heated over direct heat or in the microwave. Perhaps the best choice here is consistency, as in repeated actions, not texture. If you get used to melting all your chocolate (real and candy) in a double boiler, you won’t have to remember what you’re working with.

Dipping candy not only comes in chocolate flavors, but also vanilla, usually as the white colored dipping candy, but check the flavor on whichever package of Wilton’s candy melts you’re using since their dipping candy comes in virtually every color of the rainbow, not just dark, light and vanilla. For our purposes, cherry cordials, the dark dipping candy is preferred. The beautiful dark, shiny exterior is the perfect contrast for the red cherry and liquid filling. Ghirardelli makes a wonderful dipping candy as does Wilton.

Cherry cordials are made with maraschino cherries surrounded by a sugar coating that liquefies as the cherry liqueur reacts with the sugar. For this reason, we have to wait a full and interminable week before tasting or eating these cherries. But these cherries are certainly worth the wait. Since we won’t be using a mold for these chocolates, and instead shaping the sugar-clay around the cherries and then dipping them in the candy, be sure to choose large maraschino cherries with their stems firmly intact. And allowing the cherries a few minutes to drain on paper towels before putting the cordials together will help to ensure the sugar-clay doesn’t start liquefying before they are even dipped in the candy coating.

Aside from small candy baking cups, we won’t need any other specialty equipment. Manually mixing the sugar, rather than using a mixer will also help to ensure the sugar mixture isn’t overmixed and too soft to use.

If you’re ready to try your hand at homemade cordials, keep reading. Just don’t tell anyone what you’re doing until it’s time to taste. Otherwise you might have a chocolate mutiny on your hands if your friends and family have to wait.

Cherry Cordials

  • 60 large maraschino cherries, stems attached, drained
  • 12 ounces dark dipping candy such as Ghirardelli or Wilton
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 cups confection sugar (powdered sugar)

Mix the milk, corn syrup, extract and powdered sugar, by hand, until it resembles clay. Do not overmix, but more powdered sugar can be added if the mixture is too soft to handle.

Flatten a teaspoon of the sugar mixture into a thin disk and cover the maraschino cherry, pressing to seal the “clay” around the stem. Set cherries aside on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. If the clay doesn’t stick to the cherries, pat the cherries dry.

Melt the dark candy melts in the top of a double boiler until everything is smooth and melted.

Dip each sugar-covered cherry in the candy covering slightly onto the stem to ensure the sugar is completely covered and allow the excess to drip off for a few seconds. Place each covered cherry in a small candy baking cup. Store the cherries in a sealed container for a week. Enjoy after the long wait!