I’m halfway through documenting my chocolate-covered cherry obsession this Christmas, but I’m going to pause to post some photos of the other thing I was determined to make this year: decorated sugar cookies. Not underachiever sugar cookies, like I’ve let myself down with before, but ones that I took the time to make look pretty enough that I have to keep sneaking peeks at them, like a narcissist employed at a mirror factory.
Early in the month, I had some friends over to make Christmas cookies with me, and I tested out the sugar cookie recipe in Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking. I loved the recipe–I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried out of her books–other than having to learn the hard way that the dough really does need to be quite frozen through the whole process of cutting out the shapes. They kept their shape beautifully, held together after they cooled, and tasted wonderful, buttery with the perfect sugar cookie texture. Continue reading
As I was dipping a second round of cherries yesterday, I had three lose their stems and become “test cherries” or, in other words, the cherries I get to eat before they’re ready without feeling guilty for wasting one I could be giving to someone else, or at least eating in its final form. (Of course, I have cherries from last Wednesday that are already liquefied, but I have to do quality control on every batch, you know.)
In the interest of tracking how quickly the invertase liquefies the fondant, I decided to dissect and photograph them before taste testing each day.
After (not quite) twenty-four hours, the invertase and cherry juice have converted the fondant immediately around the cherry to liquid, but most of the fondant is still firm and attached to the chocolate coating.
Heading into my senior year in college, my mom and I realized that I was going to most likely be moving not just across town but out of town after graduation and my wedding the next summer, ending the days of having just a short trip on the freeway between us. I’d been getting more and more interested in cooking since the trip we took together to Turkey two years before that, and we both wanted to learn to decorate cakes, so we ended up enrolling in the beginning Wilton classes. And so I started down the path toward pastry school, elbow-deep in Crisco-based frosting in the back room of the local gigantic craft store.
I’m not entirely sure what prompted it, but that Christmas I became obsessed with making fancy little candies for everyone’s presents. Most of them are not so fancy in retrospect, utilizing grocery store coating chocolate and far too much sugar, but then and now the crown jewel of it all was the chocolate-covered cherry. I actually used real chocolate to coat those. I didn’t know anything about tempering chocolate then, so they were soon covered in blooming cocoa butter (not that I even knew that was the problem), but they still tasted delicious. Ever year since, I’ve intended to make them again–and make them right this time, with tempered chocolate and invertase (the enzyme used in commercial cherries to make the centers liquefy)–but even when I’ve acquired the required cherries, they haven’t gotten made.
This year, things were going to be different. This year I lined up a cherry-candying buddy, sort of like a workout buddy but more fattening. Geeky Gnu and I made plans to get together and make them as soon as the invertase showed up. We had to wait a bit longer than we liked on account of the fact that Chef Rubber was waiting for the invertase to be made, but it finally showed up on Tuesday. I was feeling lazy earlier in the week, but fortunately I was talked into making the cherries on Wednesday night rather than Thursday night, which was good because the difference between the two was seven inches of snow. Continue reading