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Author Notes: Star anise (lightly toasted) + Chocolate = Delicious. Star anise (lightly toasted) + Chocolate + Cherries = Even More Delicious. We like this on sundaes and puddings, and as a topping for my mother's sour cream cake (posted here as "Bette's Best:), angel food cake and pound cake. It's also been spotted on occasion spread on buttered whole grain toast, for a mid-morning snack . . . . and on rice cakes spread with a bit of almond butter. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Enjoy!! —AntoniaJames
Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups
- 1 pint cherries in syrup (or if using fresh, I pound of Bing, Rainier or Brooks cherries) (See note below.)
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground star anise (See instructions below.)
- 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- Sugar to taste (optional)
- Almond extract (optional)
- 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
- PREPARE THE STAR ANISE AND CHERRIES: Lightly toast in a small skillet enough star anise to make, once finely ground, 1 teaspoon (or more, if you really like it). Sift it through a fine strainer, to get out any coarse bits of the star anise, before measuring. If using canned cherries, drain them, reserving 3 tablespoons of syrup. If using fresh cherries, stem but don't pit the cherries.
- PRE-COOK THE CHERRIES (or see the note below about cooking pitted and chopped cherries directly with the chocolates). In a heavy, lidded pot with a wide bottom -- a deep skillet with a good tight lid will do -- put the cherries and enough water just to cover the bottom layer of cherries. Heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for two minutes. Turn off the heat, without removing the cover, and let sit for another 2 minutes. Then remove the cherries with a slotted spoon to a bowl or measuring cup and set aside. (You should have about 2 cups of cherries.)
- While the cherries are cooling, reduce the liquid in the pan by cooking over a medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until only 2 to 3 tablespoons remain.
- MELT THE CHOCOLATE TO START THE SAUCE: In a heavy saucepan, combine the chocolate chips with the reserved syrup. Gradually add the cocoa powder to the pan, along with the star anise, stirring all the while to combine.
- IF USING FRESH CHERRIES: When the cherries are cool enough to handle, break them in two with your fingers -- it should be very easy -- and remove the pits, then drop the cherry halves into the pan with the chocolate sauce. Or, press the cherries through a chinoise, leaving the skins and pits behind, to produce an entirely different texture. You can also tear the pieces in two while removing the pits, and then chop the halves into smaller bits, if you like. IF USING PITTED CANNED CHERRIES: Coarsely chop the cherries and add to the pan with the chocolate sauce.
- COOK THE SAUCE: Turn on the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring all the while. (If using fresh cherries, pour into the saucepan, right after you've turned on the heat, the juice that collected in the bowl in which the cherries cooled.) Add the heavy cream and stir well to combine. Turn off the heat, and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
- TASTE TEST FOR SWEETNESS AND SPICE: Test for sugar and add some, if you like. (I have found that about a tablespoon of turbinado sugar is plenty, but it depends on how sweet the cherries are.) If you’d like a stronger taste of star anise, add it now, too. If you’ve added either sugar or more star anise, heat the sauce again until it just barely starts to simmer, stirring all the while. Let cool, taste and adjust, if necessary.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Store covered in the fridge, or freeze.
- TO MAKE THIS BY PITTING AND CHOPPING THE CHERRIES WHEN RAW: You can also make this sauce without pre-cooking the cherries by pitting them and then chopping them, or not, as you wish. Melt the chocolate chips, add the cherries and juice, heat until the cherries release a bit more juice, then add the cocoa and the star anise. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, stirring all the while. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Then proceed with Step 7, above. ;o)
- REMOVING PITS FROM COOKED CHERRIES: I'm right handed and find that it works well to pick up four or five cherries in my left hand, holding one between my left thumb and index finger at a time, using my right hand to pull out the pit.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe for Cherries
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