CHOCOLATE-COVERED STRAWBERRIES

For summer entertaining, chocolate-covered strawberries are a delicious dessert treat that are easy to make and won’t heat up your kitchen.  I’m always surprised to learn how many people have never made them or think they’re too difficult to make at home, and for those people, this post is for you.

Begin with the most beautiful firm, bright red strawberries you can find.  Check for ripeness by making sure they smell like strawberries.

Use any chocolate that you like.  You can use plain old chocolate chips, or get fancy with fair trade chocolate, 85% cacao dark chocolate, or single estate chocolate made from cocoa beans picked from a single tree by a single person.  But don’t overthink it — I use Hershey’s bars, and they work just fine and taste great.  Whatever you do, don’t use candy melts (also known as confectionery coating) — it’s not fair to the strawberries.

Make sure everything you’re using is dry and free from water drops, including the strawberries and the cooking equipment.  Otherwise, your chocolate may seize up, and then the party’s over.

The secret to a smooth chocolate coating on your berries is a tablespoon of shortening.  (I had a friend that used paraffin, but I don’t consider that a food, so I wouldn’t recommend it.)  Crisco works great (which I also don’t really consider a food.)  Simply melt the chocolate and shortening together in a small saucepan — no tempering, no water bath (which you are free to do, but your berries will not taste any better and you’ll just be in the kitchen longer and make a bigger mess).

To dress up your berries, you can sprinkle them with jimmies, nuts, or toffee bits, although they look just as tempting plain.  You can also drizzle them with white chocolate.  If you’re really in it to win it, you can use a syringe to inject them with Grand Marnier, although it might not be the best idea for a kids’ birthday party.

Have some fun and get dipping!

CHOCOLATE-COVERED STRAWBERRIES
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Recipe type: Dessert
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8-9 ounces of chocolate (chocolate chips, Hershey's bars, dark chocolate -- your pick)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 1 pound strawberries, cleaned and thoroughly dried
Instructions
  1. Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper.
  2. Place the chocolate and shortening in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. (If using candy bars, coarsely chop chocolate before adding to saucepan.). Remove from heat.
  3. Holding 1 strawberry by its green top, dip ¾ of the berry into the melted chocolate (tip pan slightly to make it easier to dip). Let excess chocolate drip into pan. Place on prepared baking sheet. (If desired, can sprinkle with jimmies or nuts at this point.) Repeat with remaining berries. Refrigerate until chocolate coating is firm, approximately 1 hour. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

 IMG_6204Hershey’s bars and Crisco — easy!

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Stir together until melted

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Pretty smooth, huh?

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Time to get dippin’

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Nothing says “party” like a few sprinkles

Ta-da!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN — DECEMBER 3

Add a little spice to your holiday celebrations with gingersnaps.  And if you really want to experience a holiday treat, order a tin of crisp, spicy gingersnaps from The Center, a private not-for-profit agency serving persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities (Houston readers can purchase these at the Eastside Farmers Market).  The sale of the gingersnaps began as a volunteer effort led by Alicia Lee, whose son and nephew were residents at The Center’s Willow River Farms.  According to the website, the request for gingersnaps came from Barbara Bush, and Ms. Lee set about testing recipes for months in her quest for a crisp, crunchy, spicy cookie.  She found that one of the secrets was to have fresh and strong spices.  A spice company in Wisconsin had just what she was looking for, and after many more test batches, they sent a sample to Barbara Bush, who loved them, and the rest is gingersnap history.  Each gold tin is decorated with a hand-pressed and gilded ornament, made by one of the Center’s clients.

If you’d like to make your own gingersnaps or ginger cookies, there are a million recipes out there.  My personal favorite recipe is this one, and I bake tons of them every year.

The Center also has a traditional fruitcake that we adore.  It is loaded with red cherries, pecans, dates, walnuts, and coconut, and is more of a confection than a cake.  They are not kidding when they say that this is “the best you have ever tasted! EVER!”  (At the suggestion of one of The Center’s volunteers, we now freeze one of these fruitcakes every year to enjoy as a special treat in the summer months.)

fruitcakesAlthough the gingersnaps are wonderful all by themselves, they are even better served with Amazing Pumpkin Dip.  We discovered this years ago at a small grocery store that had samples out of various products you could order for the holidays, including pies, cookies, and turkeys.  They called it Amazing Pumpkin Dip and had copies of the recipe printed for anyone who wanted one.  What was truly amazing was that we were not asked to leave, because my young son ate at least half of the bowl of dip while I was shopping.  (He tended to view free samples as his own personal buffet.)

If you need to bring a dish to a holiday party, or are looking for something to serve at one of your own, gingersnaps and pumpkin dip are a crowd-pleaser.  You can use any brand of pumpkin butter, but my favorite is McCutcheon’s:

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AMAZING PUMPKIN DIP
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Recipe type: Appetizers, Snacks, Desserts
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 10 ounces pumpkin butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 8-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • Gingersnaps, for serving
Instructions
  1. Place cream cheese in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add pumpkin butter, sugar, and vanilla, and beat until well-blended. Gently fold in whipped topping. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with gingersnaps for dipping.

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The winner of the paperwhite bulbs giveaway, selected randomly using random.org, is Angela from Seasonal and Savory.  Angela — send me your address and I will get these off to you ASAP, and hopefully, you will have beautiful, fragrant blooms by Christmas.  Thanks to all who participated — watch for more giveaways this month.