Cherry Almond Fudge

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups sugar
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow crème
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted*
3/4 cup dried Bing cherries, chopped
Whole blanched (skin removed) almonds (about 2/3 cup), toasted*, for garnish (optional)

METHOD:

Butter 9-inch square baking pan; set aside.

In 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stir sugar, milk and butter until butter melts and mixture comes to a full boil. Continue to cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat; gradually stir in chocolate chips until melted, then stir in marshmallow crème until melted and thoroughly blended. Mix in vanilla, slivered almonds and cherries to distribute evenly.

With rubber spatula, immediately scrape evenly into prepared pan. Decorate top with whole almonds, spacing apart and pressing in lightly, so that fudge can be cut into squares between almonds. Allow to set in cool place. (This will take 2 to 3 hours.)

Cut fudge into 1 inch squares; arrange and cover with plastic wrap in gift packages, or place on serving dish. To store, wrap and refrigerate up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

* To toast almonds, spread in an ungreased baking pan. Place in 350-degree oven and bake 5 to 10 minutes or until almonds are light brown; stir once or twice to assure even browning. Note that almonds will continue to brown slightly after removing from oven.

YIELD: About 81 pieces

SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of the California Almond Board