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Celebrate cherries and chocolate  with a scrumptious dessert

Celebrate cherries and chocolate with a scrumptious dessert

Cherries and chocolate are a classic combination. Treats like black forest cake, cherry bon bons—and even simple chocolate covered cherries—are the epitome of dessert indulgence as the sweet, tart fruit complements smooth, rich chocolate.

Cherries also are nutritious. The small stone fruit is rich in antioxidants, fiber and vitamins A, C and K, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium and choline. Adding cherries or cherry products like juice to your diet can promote heart health and help reduce inflammation and may even aid in exercise recovery.

There are two main types of cherries: sweet and tart, and there are several varieties of each. And while most cherries in the U.S. are grown in the Great Lakes region and on the West Coast, many Virginia orchards cultivate cherry trees. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, 139 Virginia farms grew sweet cherries on 112 acres, and 67 farms grew tart cherries on 24 acres in 2017.

Cherry Bonbon Cookies

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons cherry flavoring, optional
48 fresh sweet cherries, pitted
6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened condensed milk

Heat oven to 350°.

Combine flour and cocoa and set aside.

With electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and baking powder until blended. Add egg, vanilla and cherry flavoring, and beat until well-combined. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Shape dough into 1" balls,and place the balls ½" apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

In the center of each ball, press down with your thumb to create a small hollow, and fill each center with a cherry.

In a small pan over low heat, combine chocolate chips and condensed milk, and heat until the chocolate is melted. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the chocolate mixture over each cherry, spreading to cover the cherry.

Bake 10- 12 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven, and place cookies on wire racks to cool.

—Recipe adapted from Northwest Cherry Growers, Washington State Fruit Commission

Peanut Butter Chocolate Covered Cherries

2 10-ounce jars of maraschino cherries with stem, or about 40 pitted fresh sweet cherries
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
24 ounces chocolate bark coating

If using maraschino cherries, drain cherries but leave the stems intact.

In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. Flatten one tablespoon of peanut butter mixture into a 2"-diameter disc. Lay a cherry on top of the peanut butter disc, with the stem pointing up, and work the dough up around the cherry so that the cherry is completely coated.

Place each enrobed cherry on a baking sheet covered with waxed paper, and freeze for about 5 minutes to chill slightly.

While the cherries chill, melt the chocolate according to the package directions. Dip cherries one at a time in the melted chocolate, and allow the excess chocolate to drip off. Place each in a paper candy cup and allow to cool until chocolate is firm.

—Recipe adapted from Virginia-Carolinas Peanut Promotions