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posted: 6/14/2012 6:00 AM

Strawberries get dressed up for summer parties

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  • Tuxedo strawberries are an elegant, fresh-fruit treat for summer entertaining.

       Tuxedo strawberries are an elegant, fresh-fruit treat for summer entertaining.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 

Chances are you have an fancy party or wedding shower on your busy summer schedule. These gatherings call for desserts with an elegant flair yet still bursting with fresh summer flavors. For special events, few desserts compare to chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Most bakers shy away from these sweet table gems in the summer and I understand why. Yes, the presentation is stunning, but the fruit poses perishability challenges and summer heat creates challenges when working with temperature-sensitive chocolate.

Before you close the cookbook on this dessert dynamo, let me share the secrets behind my favorite strawberry recipe, Tuxedo Strawberries.

Tuxedo Strawberries offer tastes of white and dark chocolate in a signature tuxedo jacket design. Instead of using gargantuan berries, look for medium-sized fruit with a deep, uniform red color and unblemished skin. Yes, giant berries usually include stems (I share a workaround for that in the recipe), but the flavor of those behemoth fruits often is inverse to their size.

The secret to successful dipping lies in proper handling of the fruit. Carefully wash in cool water and gently pat dry. Do not tumble or toss fruit in a colander or bowl. Allow fruit to dry in a single layer on paper towel at room temperature. Moisture on the berries will compromise the chocolate coating.

Tuxedo strawberries offer the perfect opportunity to introduce dark chocolate as a significant dessert partner. Bittersweet chocolate at 70 percent cacao pairs exquisitely with the sweet and juicy texture of strawberries and tames the ultra-sweet notes of the white chocolate.

The secret to melting chocolate lies in understanding the tempering process. Don't panic about the word "tempering." Stick with me as the risk is well worth the reward.

Tempering begins by melting the chocolate within a specific temperature range. Stirring keeps the cocoa butter in proper suspension and returns the cooled chocolate to a shiny appearance and snappy texture. Follow my directions in the recipe for an easy microwave process.

The tuxedo design looks far more difficult than the actual effort and surely will earn you a standing ovation.

• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Villa Park. Write her at food@dailyherald.com.

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