Sunday, October 26, 2008

October 18-19, 2008: Cherry slice experiment II: the next hypothesis

You know the Simpsons episode where Lisa becomes vegetarian and Homer starts a catchy conga line with the chant "You don't win friends with salad!"? Totally not true. On this Sunday, Michael and I made a whole bunch of new friends over the most impressive array of salads I've ever seen or eaten. We'd been invited to a vegan potluck, where we met many of Melbourne's vegan bloggers (Lisa, Kristy & Toby, Buttons, Miss T & Philippa) for the first time and many other cool peeps besides (including Emily from Aduki)! For more thorough write-ups of the event, check out these posts by Lisa, Kristy, Miss T and Philippa. Non-salad food highlights for me were Miss T's white bean pesto & asparagus tart and Kristy's ice-cream sandwiches. After my own recent foray into ice cream sandwiches, I'd like to think it was a case of great minds thinking alike, but my mind had never conceived the wonder that is peanut butter caramel! Wow.

Predictably enough, I hoped to charm the crowds with sweets. In particular, I embarked upon my second round of cherry slice experiments. Having identified the dried royal cherry as my favourite manifestation of the fruit, I went about soaking it in different liquids, hoping to find something that would allow the cherries to meld better with that white, crumbly coconut. In addition, I utterly confounded my experiment by topping the slice with a different kind of chocolate to my previous experiment. (Bad scientist. Bad bad scientist.) The Lindt 70% of slices past is short on sweetness, and I replaced it with Tropical Source choc chips to great effect. Let's hope it didn't interact with those soaking liquids! Here are the candidates...

1 Plain. As I previously noted, this version is tasty but doesn't provide a great meld - the coconut barely takes on any cherry colour and is quite crumbly.

2 Sugar syrup. Even after an hour of soaking, this syrup took on only the barest hint of cherry colour. It did provide some nice extra binding and a shot of extra sweetness.

3 Apple juice. The juice quickly acquired a distinct pink tinge, providing a little extra binding for the coconut, though not as much as the sugar syrup.

4 Black cherry syrup. I bought a Saba brand cordial from Medditeranean Wholesalers and it may well have transferred more colour and flavour to the dried fruit than the other way around! There was a hint of the ol' cough syrup about it, but it really worked for me - such vibrant colour and flavour compared to the other versions. It provides excellent binding power for the coconut, too.

I think we have a winner! Though, you know, the crust really is a bit crumbly, especially when I try to slice it up small. I can see a third suite of hypotheses forming in my mind already...


  1. Nice experimentation, Cindy.

    Although you seem to have made up your mind that dried cherry is king of all dried fruits - and I don't blame you - may I suggest that for your next experiment you vary the type of dried fruit used in the recipe? You might want to try cranberries, figs, dates, strawberries, goji, etc. I have recently discovered dried blueberries - called bluets here - and I would dare say that they taste even better than dried cherries.

  2. Totally yum! But I'm gutted that I have no idea what section I tried. I think I said this in real life, but I admire your dedication to the sweet cause.

  3. Razzcherries!!!! But I think they would be way too expensive.

    I'm so disappointed in you Cindy. All good scientists know that you only vary one variable at a time so that you can quantify the effect of each variable.

    Cherries and Kirsch always work well. I'm thinking cherries and rum might work too. Hmmmm, I feel an experiment coming on for myself. I've always loved rum and raisin, maybe I can do a rum, raisin and coconut slice. Ok I must try that.

  4. I need clarification on the recipe.

    Can I substitute butter for Nuttelex?

    Did you use agar agar powder or can I do a one to one sub with gelatin powder?

  5. I thought whatever you brought to the potluck was heavenly anyway, bad scientist of not! ;)

  6. Argh, you know Kristy and Toby? I ADORE Toby, even if he did promise to come to my birthday party and then not show up..

    Small world, etc...

    I still haven't seen either of you at Safeway yet - come in and visit me soon! xox

  7. Hi dmargster! You have a point - I'm sure there are many other dried fruits that would make a rather fine choc-coconut slice. Though dried blueberries are very tempting, the small (small) packets I've spotted locally are $12 each. I'll save that piece of inspiration up for a spendthrift day. :-)

    Thanks, Lisa! I don't usually work repeatedly at a recipe like this, it's must be the lure of the cherries. :-D

    Thanh, razzcherries were the first thing I thought of when I read dmargster's comment. :-D I recently noticed some proper raspberry cordial (not the kids' stuff) at a local shop. That might be a passable soaking liquid for dried cherries as a (still somewhat expensive) substitute. I'm not a huge rum and raisin fan but I bet that combination would work really well - I would love to see you give it a go! (Actually, Michael loves rum and raisin stuff - I'll end up making it for him if you perfect it.)

    For the recipe: you can substitute the same quantity of butter for nuttelex, it just won't be vegan any more. :-) You'll need to either soften the butter a lot before beginning or use an electric mixer.

    I used agar agar powder. I'm not in the habit of using gelatin (since it's not vegetarian) so I'm not sure if you can substitute directly or not. Consult teh internets. :-)

    Thanks, Miss T! :-)

    Hiya Lily! I actually only know K & T through their blogs, though now that I've met them in person I'm hopeful that we'll become firm friends. :-) Michael and I were in Safeway on Sunday afternoon and I looked out for you (even backtracked from the shelves specifically!) but I saw no-one matching your description round the deli - sorry. :-(

  8. I'm so sorry Cindy - My birthday was last Friday, so I took the weekend off as my gift to myself!

    I'll be there this weekend, I PROMISE.


  9. Ha, Lily, no problem - I hope you had a lovely birthday. Will actually be out of town this weekend but will continue looking out for you over the coming weeks. :-)

  10. Hm, I'll have to try and find my favourite cherry-slice base for you to try. It works really well no matter what size pieces you cut :)

  11. It was great to meet you both, I've been reading your blog for a little while now and it's nice to meet the people behind the screen!

  12. I would love to see it, Maffy! Please pass it along if you do track it down. :-)

    It was great to meet you too, Philippa, even if we didn't get to chat much. I'm sure we'll run into each other again soon. :-)