Friday, June 17, 2016

Cherries & Cheerwine - Three Ways

<speedrack alt_text="Cherries + Cheerwine = endless deliciousness">


Cherry season seems to blow by.  One minute they appear in the front of the grocery store ripe and busting with possibility.  The next, they've been replaced by grapes.  Grapes.  They're good and all, but not cherries.
The cherry baking struggle is real.
As you might have noticed in the picture (there will be a quiz at the end of this article), these cherries brought along a friend!  North Carolina is home to a particular cherry-flavored soft drink called Cheerwine.  While not wine our good friends grapes provide, which is enough to forgive them for showing up in the cherry bin at the grocery store, Cheerwine is quite a North Carolinian staple.  And the variety out the glass bottle is the best.  Just sayin.  It also has become a fresh ingredient in a lot of dishes!  Many times pared with it's BFF cherries.
Reunited and it tastes so good!
Steve Gordon, the food blogger for Our State, the magazine covering all things North Carolina, blended Cheerwine and cherries in a simple and intuitively delicious dessert: Cheerwine Cherry Cobbler.  By reducing cherries in Cheerwine (sidebar: the glass bottled stuff), one of the best cobbler fillings is created and North Carolina bats 3 for 3 for the title of "best state ever".  I definitely lean towards 1lb cherries (unpitted) to 1 bottle of Cheerwine.
About 10 minutes away from reduced heaven
However!  This delicious mixture can be used in a variety of different ways simply by separating the reduced Cheerwine Cherry Syrup from the Cherrwine Cherries. Aka: strain the cherries and get a-baking!  Of course the first thing I made with both is bundt cake.
Now saying you ate a whole cake by yourself is slightly less impressive
I was inspired by this Cheerwine Bundt Cake at A Spicy Southern Kitchen. This cake defeated me the first time we met, but I knew we were headed in a positive direction.  The main problem boiled down, or rather over-onto-my-oven-floor, to carbonation in the Cheerwine.  The Cheerwine Cherry syrup had no carbonation, plus deeper flavor and color from the cherries.  A win all around!  This, topped with a vanilla, almond, or chocolate glaze, ice cream, or nothing at all is the Cheerwine Cherry Bundt Cake of your dreams.
Notice how one didn't even make it into the picture-taking experience

Cheerwine Cherry Bundt Cake substitutions:
Red food coloring = slightly more Cheerwine Cherry syrup (we're talking like a 1/4-1/3 tsp) to make up the liquid ratio
1 cup Cheerwine = 1 cup Cheerwine Cherry Sauce
1/2 shortening = 1/2 butter; this sub can be made, and I sometimes prefer it so the outside doesn't darken as much.  Let the beautiful red out!

This left me with the "problem" of the Cheerwine Cherries.  After some thinking during my first solution (read: eating with a spoon), I decided to throw them into my favorite berry bundt cake recipe: Strawberry Yogurt Cake from Tide and Thyme.  I stumbled into this cake while trying to find something to do with a leftover raspberry reduction.  I find it's a great lighter vehicle for any fruit or fruit reduction.
Why yes those are the cherries going in the next batch.
Strawberry Yogurt Cake substitutions
12 oz strawberries = 1 heaping cup of Cheerwine Cherries.  I added cherries until it looked good for me personally; just mind the volume increase

Of course this is only the beginning for this delicious mixture.  I've also used the Cheerwine Cherry Syrup in a frosting recipe (results: delicious), and the Cheerwine Cherries as a topping for mini white chocolate pudding cups (results: indeterminate due to "mysteriously vanishing" pudding.  Oh darn, going to have to make it again...).  I'm doing further experimentation with these 2 wonderful ingredients which hopefully you'll read about right here.  Stay tuned, and go forth to experiment yourself!
Easiest photo setup ever.


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