I’d like to wax nostalgic and sentimental in this post, but really? There just isn’t time. I learned to make the jellies pictured here from my dear old friend and mentor, Eugene Bernard. (You can read about him in the post I wrote last Christmas, and read the recipe for his to-die-for whiskey truffles. I won’t blame you if you make them instead. But I warn you; they are a bit of a project.) On the other hand, fruit jellies (pate de fruits) are easy peasy. They are so very French and so very beautiful, n’est-ce pas? You cannot be a die-hard perfectionist if you make them at home because, without commercial apple pectin, they need to be coddled a bit after they are made. No biggie. You can still make them ahead—oops, too late for that. Anyway, for future reference, they will last at least a month in the refrigerator in one large piece. You just need to serve them rather soon after you cut them and roll them in sugar. (See recipe for further ‘splainin’)
The choice of fruit—cranberries—is a bit unusual for fruit jellies. And the texture is a bit chunky, too. Most fruits are strained and smoothed before they are turned into jellies, and their appearance is more uniform and precisely cut. Listen up, all you overachievers who thrall to pressure, tension and anxiety at the very last minute: Bernard’s tweak on these jellies: dip them in chocolate. Now that is a bit of a project, too. Still….
If you are going to dip them, technically, the chocolate should be tempered so it will stay shiny and beautiful when it sets up. When chocolate (which you always buy in the tempered state) melts, the cocoa butter separates out and rises to the surface. It leaves streaks and makes the finish dull when it hardens. The remedy is to “temper” it by introducing some unmelted, tempered chocolate in small quantities. Those little bad-tempered molecules that have gone awry in the melting process sit up and realign like good little soldiers when they meet their tempered fellow molecules. Never mind. We don’t have time for that. Sprinkled with a little cocoa powder and fit into cute little candy papers, the jellies look fine. And boy, they are good. Take them to a friend or add a little happiness to your own holiday dessert table.
1 small lemon, sliced and seeds removed
12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
6 ounces (1 bottle or 2 pouches) Certo liquid pectin
2 1/2 cups sugar, and more for rolling
12 to 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate (optional)
1. Cut two 8-by-13-inch rectangles of parchment paper to line an 8-inch square pan: place one rectangle in pan, crease at corners and edges, and place second rectangle in the opposite direction.
2. Purée lemon slices, cranberries and 1/4 cup water in food processor until smooth. If you like, leave mixture a little chunky.
3. Combine cranberry purée in medium sauce pan with sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil, stirring often, for 4 minutes.
4. Remove pan from heat and stir in pectin. Return to heat and bring to a boil again. Stir for 1 minute. Pour into pan and let cool until set. Cover and refrigerate in pan until ready to cut.
5. Using the parchment paper as handles, lift the square of jelly out in one piece and set it on a cutting board. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 1-inch squares and roll in sugar. If you want to finish them a few hours ahead of time, place cut squares on a rack to dry for about an hour before rolling in sugar. The sugar eventually melts and oozes a bit after a couple of hours when it comes in contact with the jellies, but rack drying them first delays that eventuality.
6. To dip some of the jellies in chocolate: Cut the big block in half. Cut one half of the block into squares for rolling in sugar and cut the other half into rectangles for dipping in chocolate. Melt about 12 ounces of chopped chocolate in the microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval to avoid burning, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until it is completely melted. (Or melt in a stainless steel bowl set over hot water. In that case, turn the oven on to the lowest setting so you can re-warm the chocolate as you dip.) See photos below for more details.
Just a few ingredients.
In a food processor.
Puree until not quite smooth.
Add sugar, cook, add pectin and cook again. Pour in pan. Let cool.
Cut and roll in sugar.
TO DIP IN CHOCOLATE
Chop chocolate in small pieces with serrated knife so it melts evenly.
Cut jellies in rectangles, pat dry with paper towels and dry on a rack for an hour or longer. Drop into melted chocolate and coat. Remove with fork. Tap fork against side of bowl to release excess and scrape bottom of fork along rim of bowl. Place on WELL OILED (IMPORTANT!) rack. Use non-stick spray or brush generously with mild-tasting oil. If you are a perfectionist or just love chocolate, chill until set and dip again.
These would look prettier with a second dip, since the jellies are a bit chunky. If chocolate cools while dipping, reheat in oven or microwave.
Cocoa covers all sins.