This is shaping up as a “berry” good year for Shari Fitzpatrick. The founder of Shari’s Berries, the popular line of chocolate strawberries and other confections, has a new book coming out next week: “Berried in Chocolate: How I Built a Multimillion-Dollar Business By Doing What I Love to Do and How You Can Too” (Peli-can, $23; 223 pages).
The Placerville, Calif., resident also launched a new line of frozen treats recently, while Valentine’s Day marks the busiest time of year for her strawberry-based business.
Fitzpatrick sold her company to the San Diego-based Provide Commerce four years ago but continues to churn out gourmet-dipped strawberries through the Berry Factory.
And now she’s offering some tips to create these confections at home.
The overall process is simple: Buy strawberries, melt chocolate, dip the strawberries, let dry and enjoy. But there’s plenty of fine-tuning that goes into these treats and Fitzpatrick was kind enough to share with us her tips for creating crafty and delicious, chocolate-dipped strawberries in your kitchen.
Let’s get to them:
1. Start with a fat strawberry: The berries need to be big enough to bear the toppings and also hold up to the heat of melted chocolate.
“You want a really big and firm strawberry,” said Fitzpatrick. “[Farmers markets] have great strawberries, but the ones around here have so much sugar that they mold easily and get mushy when dipped in chocolate.”
2. Invest in a triple slow cooker: Fitzpatrick used to fire up a series of slow cookers to make her dipped strawberries at home, but a slow-cooker trio makes the work easier. These units house three slow cookers in a single appliance and can be found for around $50, and were on sale for as little as $30 around the holidays.
“I do white chocolate in one, then dark chocolate and milk chocolate,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s something cool that you can have right in your home.”
3. Don’t work with wet fruit: Make sure your strawberries are dried well before your start dipping. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a mushy mess.
“Chocolate has a lot of oil in it, and water and oil don’t like each other,” said Fitzpatrick.
4. Watch the temperature: Chocolate burns easily and also if it’s too hot has a hard time sticking to the strawberry. Fitzpatrick recommends going no higher than the “warm” setting on a slow cooker.
If melting chocolate in a microwave, set the oven to “defrost” for three minutes. Repeat in three-minute increments until chocolate is melted.
5. Drizzle smoothly: Use a spatula to drizzle designs onto your chocolate-dipped strawberries. Start by practicing your drizzling technique in the bowl before applying to the strawberries.
“The goal is to form a few clean lines, rather than a big mess that’s all slopped up,” said Fitzpatrick. “You can also practice on parchment paper or wax paper. Don’t get all excited. It’s like a golf swing: Relax.”
6. Get creative: Experiment with melting butterscotch and peanut butter chips. Fitzpatrick also recommends garnishing your chocolate-dipped strawberries with nuts, coconut and miniature M&Ms.
“You can also [dip] pretzels, licorice and any kind of fruit,” said Fitzpatrick. “Maraschino cherries are also becoming popular. You can even make a kabob of grapes and berries.”
7. Perk up your presentation: “If you’re making them yourself, you might want to invest in some paper doilies,” said Fitzpatrick. “Or maybe you can get some little paper cups used for cupcakes. This makes it look professional, and you can get this all in bulk at Smart & Final.”
8. Eat them fresh: Only freeze your strawberries in a pinch. They’re meant to be enjoyed sooner rather than later, ideally the same day you’ve dipped them.
“Strawberries are 75 percent water, and like frozen strawberries, they turn to sauce when they thaw,” said Fitzpatrick. “They need to be eaten quick. Don’t forget how perishable they are.”
9. Dedicate some kitchen space for your dipping hobby: “Start a cabinet where you can keep all your sprinkles, chocolates, wax paper and Tupperware,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s a place where everything is together and it’s a time saver.”
10. Throw a chocolate-dipping party: “I’m always doing them,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s like a party favor that you can eat and take home.”
Melted Dipping Chocolate
Prep time: 10 minutes
This is Shari’s Secret Recipe No. 4, in “Berried in Chocolate.”
One 12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips (or white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips)
¼ teaspoon orange, hazelnut or mint extract or liqueur (optional)
Put chips in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on defrost setting (very important) for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir. Return to microwave for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir. Repeat until chips are completely melted.
If desired, add liqueur or flavored extract.
Pour melted chocolate into fondue pot or slow cooker. Keep warm on lowest setting and place on a table for dipping goodies. Stir occasionally if necessary.
Shari’s Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Martini
Prep time: 5 minutes Serves 1
This is Shari’s Secret Recipe No. 8, in “Berried in Chocolate.”
1 ounce strawberry vodka
½ ounce Godiva chocolate liqueur
Splash strawberry puree
1 chocolate-dipped strawberry, partially sliced and fanned out
Swirl chocolate syrup inside a chilled martini glass. Rim with red sugar. Shake vodka, liqueur, puree and cream over ice, and strain into the prepared martini glass. Garnish with chocolate-dipped strawberry placed elegantly on the rim.
Mom’s Strawberry Pie
Prep time: 35 minutes Chill time: 2 hours, 45 minutes, total Serves 8
This is Shari’s Secret Recipe No. 3, in “Berried in Chocolate.”
18 graham crackers
¼ cup sugar
½ cup melted butter
1 ½ cups cold water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
One 3-ounce package sugar-free strawberry gelatin
3 tablespoons sugar
4 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
For pie crust: Crush graham crackers into a bowl. You should have approximately 1½ cups. Add sugar and melted butter, and mix well. Press the mixture firmly into a buttered, 8-inch pie pan. Chill the crust in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.
For strawberry filling: In a saucepan, mix together water and cornstarch. Bring this to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn down heat to medium and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the gelatin and sugar, mixing well until dissolved. Add the strawberries; mix together well. Pour into graham cracker crust. Place in refrigerator until set (about 2 hours). If desired, serve with whipped topping.
Per serving: 314 cal.; 6 g pro.; 36 g carb.; 14 g fat (8 sat., 4 monounsat., 2 polyunsat.); 31 mg chol.; 373 mg sod.; 2 g fiber; 19 g sugar; 43 percent calories from fat.