Cherry season is almost over – sniff, sniff – so now is the time for all good chocolatiers to honor this exquisite superfruit. Cherries come in sweet and sour varieties, including Bing, Morello, and Schmidt among many others. Historians suspect they are originally from China and first cultivated in Turkey by the Romans in the 1st century. They later captured the adoration of the Chinese brush painters; their blossoms became a national cultural symbol of Japan and many cities (notably Kyoto, Washington DC and Vancouver) incorporate them into their landscape and organize festivals around them.
Sweet or tart to create a cherry compote for your chocolate confection? Given that tart cherries are naturally bittersweet (like you-know-what), opt for deep, dark red Morellos or Montmorency, pit ‘em, give them a rough chop and boil them in 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup with a pinch of salt and a splash of brandy for 5 minutes or so. While they cool, make a thin shortbread crust, baked very soft. A simple sugar cookie recipe or pate sucre will do – just roll it out to 1/4″ on a sheet pan and bake just until light brown on the edges. Next, make a milk chocolate ganache (1 cup melted milk chocolate, 3/4 cup hot cream, a little black pepper; pulse them in the food processor for about 10 seconds). Put a 1/2″ layer of ganache over the shortbread, then a thin layer of the cherry compote. Push the cherries into the chocolate ganache so they will stay put. Allow it to set, then slice into 1″ squares or circles and enrobe them in dark, 72% chocolate. Top with pink chocolate plastique cherry blossoms. If this all sounds tasty but too much work, visit my on-line store at www.happychocolates.com and I’ll send you a batch. Pssst. Either way, buy cherries now and freeze them! You’ll thank me in September.