One thing I always have in my fridge is a jar of maraschino cherries. There is something about their vibrant red color that just makes me happy. As a kid I called them cheery cherries. And to this day I am hard pressed to suppress a smile when presented with a dessert topped with a maraschino cherry. Even the most humble dish of store bought ice cream becomes an event when topped with a maraschino cherry. And as a food blogger, I find that the little pop of red from a cherry can brighten up any photo.
So you can imagine how pleased I was when asked to develop gluten-free recipes for the National Cherry Growers & Industries Foundation.
The obvious choice, for me anyway, is to pair these sweet cherries with rich, dark chocolate. Thus gluten-free cherry brownie bites were born. Fudgy, gooey, gluten-free brownies (which are grain–free as well) are studded with chunks of sweet cherries. I couldn’t decide if the perfect topping would be a chocolate ganache or very lightly sweetened, whipped cream. So I did both! My husband, who prefers his desserts on the sweeter side, voted for the ganache topped brownies while I preferred the whipped cream. I must say that the resulting contrast of toppings made for a fun game of edible checkers.
These brownies can be baked in an 8-inch square pan if you prefer; just increase the cooking time to about 25 minutes. The top should be set but still a little squiggly inside. They will firm up as they cool.
I love the presentation of baking them in mini-muffin tins and with swim suit season just around the corner the portion control is a plus.
I ground my own almonds using about 2 cups of slivered almond to produce 1 1/2 cups of ground almonds. I wanted little flecks of nut meat through out. If you prefer a finer texture use finely ground almond meal from blanched almonds.
Gluten-free Cherry Brownie Bites
1 10 ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained reserving 5 tablespoons of the syrup
8 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
Cherry Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows) or
1 cup whipped cream lightly sweetened with a tablespoon or two of reserved cherry syrup
48 maraschino cherries for decoration, drained and patted dry
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Insert paper liners in 48 mini muffin cups.
Pat the cherries dry and chop them roughly. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate chips and butter in a heat proof bowl in the microwave for 2 1/2 to3 minutes, stirring once or twice until the butter is fully melted and the chips are almost all melted. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Stir in the vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons of the reserved maraschino cherry syrup and the sugar. Let cool slightly.
Beat in the eggs, ground almonds, salt and chopped cherries. Divide batter between the prepared muffin tins filling the tins almost full. A small ice cream scoop helps with this.
Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until the tops are set and feel firmish to the touch but the insides are still soft. Do not over bake. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out to a wire rack to finish cooling.
If using chocolate ganache, spoon some ganache on top of the brownies, top each with a maraschino cherry and refrigerate for at least half an hour to firm the ganache. Can be made a day ahead.
If topping with cream, pipe or dollop on the whipped cream just before serving and top each brownie with a cherry.
Cherry Chocolate Ganache
4 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons reserved cherry syrup
Pour chocolate chips into a small heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and cherry syrup in a small pan over medium high heat until it just comes to a boil. Pour the hot milk mixture over the chocolate chips and let set for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth and glossy. Let set for about 10 to 15 minutes then spoon over the brownies.
For more gluten-free recipes, check out my blog.