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Dried Tart Cherries
Posted: 07 April 2011 11:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I’m likely going to make the ganache and cherries this weekend, but I won’t make the cake until next weekend, and probably won’t eat it until the following Thursday.

I know I can freeze the ganache, but I’m not sure how to handle the cherries.  I wanted to go ahead and soak them so I could put the leftover cognac in the ganache, but I wasn’t sure how to then store them unti lthe next week.  Add the corn syrup or wait?  Store in the fridge or room temp? 

Also, I can’t think of any reason I can’t freeze the composed cake—I know cake and ganache are fine, but I wasn’t sure about the cherries, although I can’t think of any obstacles there, but I thought I’d ask.

Thanks, you knowledgeable dried-fruit-soaked-in-boozeers, you!

—ak

p.s.  I’m going to get one of those little bottles of cognac—any brand suggestions, assuming I have a choice?
p.p.s.  I don’t think the hub will want the cherries soaked in cognac for our half cake (making 1.5x recipe for 1.5 cakes).  Would I just soak those cherries in water?

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Posted: 08 April 2011 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Anne in NC - 07 April 2011 08:40 PM

I use Organic Valley Heavy Whipping Cream (http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/cream/heavy-whipping-cream/).  They say they’re 40%.  Unfortunately, I can’t get non-UHT here.
For cocoa powder, I use E. Guittard Rouge Red—mmmmmm!!

These sound fine, no problems.  I know the Guittard is over 20% cocoa butter because the company very kindly confirmed it. smile 

If the defrosted container from your freezer was the perfect consistency after coming up fully to room temp, then maybe all you needed was more time.  I almost always, whenever possible, leave ganache out overnight.  Another trick I’ve used when in a crunch for time is to pour the freshly made ganache into a half sheet pan and then put it in a cool area of the house (but not the refrigerator).  That cuts way down on the time it takes to set.  But I’ve heard it said that the most desireable crystal formation (i.e., particles of cocoa butter than are so tiny they are smooth to the eye and mouth) comes from a slow cooling.  I can confirm this to a certain extent- the last time I used the sheet pan method, I had to re-melt and re-cool three times before I got a ganache that was smooth.

Do you think adding the cognac to the ganache could push it over?  Should I use a tad less water?

I would never leave out the cognac, as this small amount doesn’t taste boozy in the least and adds a beautiful background note to the flavor.  If you wanted to take out a tablespoon of the water, to be safe, you could. I would do this myself if I wanted to pipe with the ganache.  But if it isn’t for an event and you’re following the presentation in the book (swirls), you could try just giving it plenty of time to set.  A well-chilled cake will also help.

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Posted: 08 April 2011 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Anne in NC - 08 April 2011 02:03 AM

I know I can freeze the ganache, but I’m not sure how to handle the cherries.  I wanted to go ahead and soak them so I could put the leftover cognac in the ganache, but I wasn’t sure how to then store them unti lthe next week.  Add the corn syrup or wait?  Store in the fridge or room temp?

The cognac and extra sugar preserves them, plus they have a pretty long shelf life to begin with.  Just make them up with the cognac and the golden syrup and set them aside, covered.  You can keep them in the fridge if you like, but out on the counter works, too, especially if it’s just for day or two.  After several weeks in the fridge it’s possible that the sugars crystallize (like honey can), a gentle warming will re-dissolve them.

Also, I can’t think of any reason I can’t freeze the composed cake

  The cherries should freeze just fine.

p.s.  I’m going to get one of those little bottles of cognac—any brand suggestions, assuming I have a choice?

I like Hennessey, but really any brandy will work.  The main thing, given how much brandy these cherries call for, is to get a smooth one, so if it’s available a VSOP.  Best brandy I’ve ever put into ganache was from Armenia.  They have the oldest brandy production in the world, older than France.  But I digress…

p.p.s.  I don’t think the hub will want the cherries soaked in cognac for our half cake (making 1.5x recipe for 1.5 cakes).  Would I just soak those cherries in water?

OK, now you’ve done it.  Here I go up on my soapbox:  Think of the brandy/cognac as vanilla extract.  They have close to the same alcohol content, 35-40%.  You wouldn’t leave out the vanilla in a recipe that called for it, right?  Now in this case, the amount of cognac is pretty hefty, so I would definitely say cut back to a tablespoon or so if you’re not a brandy lover.  But you’ll be missing out on a complex flavor if you omit it completely.  If you do reduce or omit it, replace it with water.  You’ll also need to reduce the amount of golden syrup, as part of the syrup is to sweeten the brandy and water doesn’t need as much sugar.

I’ll step off the box, now. smile

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Posted: 08 April 2011 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Jenn - 07 April 2011 09:29 PM

We actually had a deal with each other that whoever try the DFC as cupcakes has to tell the other LOL.

I made the RHC Devil’s food as cupcakes, they were great.  I used the alternate mixing method from Rose’s blog (which is actually her standard method).  The only thing I would say about the cupcakes is that their small size makes it undesireable to make them ahead, so give the brandied cherries a little extra time to mellow before composing the cupcakes (if you’re using them).  I did not find these dense at all, so I would not contemplate changing the recipe.

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Posted: 08 April 2011 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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First, Julie, those cuppies are beautiful!  I love the meticulously placed cherries on each one.  So cute even without the ganache!

I just looked at the recipe, and it calls for dried SOUR cherries, so I assume that SOUR cherries = ‘tart cherries with sugar’?  Ingredients!!!

Actually, it was you who recommended E. Guittard to me when the G&B went off the shelves.  Thanks for the brandy advice!  Stopping by the ABC—first time I’ve been in one since I was about 12—tonight!

Thanks for the advice on the crystalization and setting of the gananche.  When I first made this, I wouldn’t ever have thought of leaving it overnight.  In fact, had I not been on the board all this time, I still wouldn’t, so I’m glad to know that’s the way to go.  This time, since I didn’t need it right away, I’d have just put it in the fridge, so I’m especially happy to hear about the crystalization.  I’ll let it set overnight for slow cooling so it gets the best texture, and then I’ll freeze it.

Ha!  Actually, my husband doesn’t like the taste of vanilla extract—even organic ones.  He can always tell when I use it, so I use all vanilla beans now!  Our 1/2 cake will just be a the cake and ganache (sans brandy and cherries), but the cake for the birthday will be ‘the whole thing.’  I guess tatebuds are different for different people, and even small amounts just really have an overly prominent taste to him, so that things don’t blend and taste balanced.

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Posted: 08 April 2011 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Julie, why do you say the small size of the cupcakes makes them undesirable to make ahead? Can you elaborate?

My next project - soon - will be to make them as cupcakes smile. So you don’t find the texture too dense with the standard mixing method?

Anne - I second Julie that you shouldn’t omit the brand, just reduce it.

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Posted: 08 April 2011 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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In my experience small cakes dry out more quickly. 

I made these a while ago, but don’t remember them being too dense.  That can happen if butter is too cold, baking powder old, etc.  The texture is like the choc fudge cake from the Cake Bible (or the all-american).

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Posted: 08 April 2011 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I’ve made the All American (i.e, Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake), and I’d consider it the perfect chocolate cake texture.  Not too tender, but not at all dense.  I think I’ll just use the modified—i.e., normal—mixing method!

Jenn, since you don’t have TCB (I think—or you do but, you’re only cooking from RHC), the All American is the same cake as that RHC chocolate bundt cake with the marzipan candles draped on it.  I can’t wait for you to get TCB—you’re going to go crazy, it’s so wonderful!

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Posted: 08 April 2011 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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The ABC has Hennessey and E&J VSOP—the Hennessey is smaller and more expensive—would you suggest the E&J VOSP as better for this use due to it’s smoothness or is it better to get ‘plain’ Hennesssey?  I also just noticed that the recipe actually calls for cognac.  Same stuff, right?

Finally, for the cherries to mellow, do I keep them at room temp in a sealed jar or with the lid off?  And for the cake, when I compose it, it can still mellow refrigerated or frozen, no?

Thanks! That’s ALL the qeustions! I promise!!!

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Posted: 09 April 2011 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Anne, really either will work.  I haven’t confirmed this with taste tests, but my sense is that the henessey will have a more refined flavor and would work well if you give it additional time to mellow.  But the E&J will work well too, and maybe take less time to mellow. 

about VSOP:
VSOP is a legal designation in France, so any brandy with that on the label will meet certain standards of aging, type of casks that the spirits are aged in, etc.  In the US, it isn’t a legal designation, so it’s basically the company positioning their brandy to compare with French VSOP brandies, which suggests that it is aged longer and should be more complex and mellow than their own basic brandy.  But there aren’t any legal guidelines, so it’s difficult to compare without a taste test.

about brandy/cognac:
Many countries make brandy, which is distilled wine, but cognac is a geographic designation, brandy from a specific area of France, and is often considered a superior, very refined sort of brandy.  There’s also armangac, brandy from another region of France, earthier than cognac and delicious as well.  E&J is American-made brandy.

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Posted: 09 April 2011 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Thanks, Julie!

I’d already gotten the VSOP (after first buying the Hennessey and thinking I should have gotten the VSOP, so I exchanged, but after reading your post I probably should have kept the Hennessey), and my cherries are currently soaking!  A first! And, you know, the brandy is quite smooth—not as boozy tasting as the rum I got, but didn’t use, in the chestnut buttercream!

The cherries came in 5oz bags, which was disappointing.  I was hoping for 7 so there would be some extras for tasting, but I didn’t want to get 2 bags of them.  Now I wish I did!!!!  Oh, well, I still have 1/2 a bottle of the brandy, so I can always do it again if I want!

Thanks again for your help!  It’s all very exciting. 

Stopped by Sur La Table for more E. Guittard Rouge, and I saw that they also have boxes of chocolate.  Their E . Guittard chocolate pieces (62%) are a very good price—75 cents/ounce.  Normally, at the store, “good” chocolate is around $1.25/ounce, so I got a couple of boxes of that, too.  I like to mix chocolates, so I’m going to mix the E. Guittard with Ghiradelli 60% (which, on sale, is 75 cents/ounce, showing what a great price the Guittard is).  Their eating bars are quite nice, though, so I like mixing them with other chocolate. Ditto Lindt.

Anyway, cherries-ho! today, and ganache-ho! tomorrow.  Cake-ho! next weekend.

Thanks again!

—ak

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