For years, Valentine’s Day meant elementary school parties, with cards for the kids to exchange and home-baked cookies or decorated cupcakes to share. Many times, I was notified at the very last minute that I needed to send 32 whatevers with one or both of the kids for a hastily and loosely organized class celebration. Adding to the fun was the fact that my middle child’s birthday is only three days before the holiday and I usually made a lame cake decorated with holiday M & M’s for the family get-together. Trooper that he is, he always thanked me for the effort. Now that he has children of his own, he prefers that I make him a giant birthday cookie because that’s what I make for the grandchildren. Silly me; why didn’t I think of that back then?
Obviously, the romance of Valentine’s Day escaped me. This strikes me as tragic. This year, my goal was to produce a lovely little bonbon that is easy enough to make but with plenty of yum and visual appeal. Anyone can take the basic idea and gift them as is or gild the lily, so to speak. I show them with a dark chocolate coating, since I adore chocolate-covered cherries but I also envision them with a white chocolate coating. The drizzle in the photograph is a simple blend of powdered sugar and maraschino cherry liquid-1/8 cup to a teaspoon or so of juice. A truly talented confectioner would, of course, have far better ideas. Edible gold leaf or candy jewels? The cherry ganache also makes a charming filling for cookies or cupcakes, between layers of cake or even cakepops. If cherry flavor is not your thing, consider raspberry or strawberry in keeping with the Valentine’s theme.
3 ounces plus 1 1/2-tablespoon heavy cream
9 ounces white chocolate chips (Ghirardelli works well)
1/4 teaspoon cherry flavoring (I use LorAnn Oils; available at the Frosted Flour in Lodi)
2 tablespoons maraschino cherries; drained, patted very dry and minced
40 to 45 small fluted paper cups
Heat cream in medium-sized, heavy saucepan over medium heat just until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips into the cream. Allow to sit for a few minutes; the hot cream should melt them. Stir gently to blend to a smooth consistency. If the chocolate is not quite melty, place pan back over very low heat, stirring slowly and constantly until smooth; do not allow to scorch.
Pour ganache into a shallow bowl and allow to cool at room temperature, then refrigerate until firm. (Several hours or overnight)
Coat hands with powdered sugar and scoop small amounts to roll into approximately 3/4-inch balls. (I use a demitasse spoon) Try to make them as round as possible, although slightly less than perfect is okay. Place each in a single layer on a jellyroll pan and chill, uncovered, until very firm. (Anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours) When firm, the ganache balls can be eaten as is or dipped in a coating or rolled in dry coating of choice. Place in paper cups and refrigerate in an airtight container, in single layers, separated by wax or parchment paper.
If you do plan to dip them in either white, milk or dark chocolate, have ready another jellyroll pan lined with foil (shiny side up and very smooth) then melt 5 ounces of chocolate chips, following package directions. Do not overheat. Using dipping tools, two forks or even your fingers, dip to coat completely. Allow excess to drip back into pan. Lay each carefully on lined pan. Decorations may be applied at this point, depending on what you are using. If you are doing a drizzle, place truffles back in refrigerator to harden coating before decorating. Package and store as above. These taste best at room temperature. Makes approximately 40 to 45 tasty little truffles.
Lori Bowles was raised in Southern California. She is currently serving on the board of directors as the advertising and publicity chair for the Lodi Bowmen Inc. She lives in Lodi with her husband Jeff and has three children and five grandchildren. She enjoys cooking, reading about cooking and reading about cooking while eating.