What is Actually in the Center of Those Chocolate-Covered Cherries?
What do saliva, bees, beer, fondant, and those chocolate-covered cherry cordials have in common?
If you search for a recipe for a chocolate-dipped candy with a semi-liquid center, you’ll find that it calls for an interesting ingredient: an enzyme called invertase. It’s candy chemists’ little secret. Though it sounds like a scary chemical, it’s just an enzyme that splits sucrose (common table sugar) into its two parts, glucose (most commonly in the form of dextrose) and fructose, by breaking down (or hydrolyzing) the bond between the two.
Invertase naturally occurs in our saliva, aiding in the breaking down of complex carbs into smaller pieces. (If you didn't know, digestion begins in our mouths.) Bees produce large amounts of invertase to break down raw nectar into honey. Invertase can also be derived from yeast, which means invertase is used in the making of beer and can technically be found in bread, when baker’s yeast is used.
The commercial-grade version is derived from bees or yeast and you and can be purchased on Amazon or at specialty candy and cake decorating stores. Candy makers use the enzyme to make fondant smoother and make the luscious centers of chocolates possible. When making cherry cordials, the fondant is prepared with invertase or the cherries are coated in the enzyme prior to dipping. The fondant-covered cherries are set aside to cool, dipped in chocolate, and kept covered for 1-2 weeks while the enzyme works to break down sucrose into two different sugars that are more soluble. The outer part of the cherry is liquified, creating that iconically smooth and syrupy center.
So no, invertase isn’t a scary chemical that you should avoid eating. It just makes bigger sugars into smaller ones. If fact, you might see it as an ingredient in digestive enzyme supplements. While I wouldn't recommend those without talking to your MD first, don’t be afraid to embrace a love for cherry-goo and eat all the chocolates that your heart desires (within reason). If you aren't into using invertase, or you cannot find it, another easy and delicious way to make chocolate-covered cherries includes a good soak in brandy, instead.