The reality is that for 90% of the year, you'll have to satisfy yourself with frozen, canned, glace or dried versions. I'm personally not too keen on glace cherries, frozen and canned have their place but dried can be a bit of a hit and miss affair - that was until I first tasted these cherries. They are almost like lollies - dense and chewy with a deep sweet cherry flavour, it takes a lot of will-power not to devour these by the handful.
As a means of extending the life span of these cherries I'll be using them to make a version of Dan Lepard's Chocolate, Stout and Raisin Slice.
It's an interesting recipe - instead of using milk, Stout is used. Stout is a dark beer made from either roasted barley or malt. I've used a local stout - Hargreaves Hill Stout which is brewed from roasted barley.
With its chocolate notes, it should fit in nicely with the rest of the ingredients. I've replaced the rolled oats with rolled spelt as I prefer their more nutty flavour. I've also decreased the sugar and replaced some of the flour with almond meal. Finally I've replaced the icing with a simple dark chocolate ganache. If you look at the original recipe the icing requires 325 grams of icing sugar - that is sugar coma territory.
Cherry, Chocolate and Stout Loaf
1 bottle/330mls Hargreaves Hill Stout (or your favourite Stout)
50 grams rolled spelt
25 grams cocoa powder
80 grams butter, cut into cubes
100 grams dark chocolate (I used Lindt 85% dark chocolate)
180 grams soft brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
180 grams dried royal cherries
200 grams plain flour
50 grams almond meal
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70% dark chocolate)
¼ cup cream
Make the Ganache:
Place the dark chocolate and cream into a small saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool before using.
Make the Loaf:
Pour the stout into a pan - add in the rolled spelt and cocoa powder and place over a low heat. Stir until the cocoa powder has dissolved - bring the mixture to boiling point and then simmer for a minute.
Remove the pan from the heat, add in the butter and dark chocolate and stir until both have dissolved. Add in the brown sugar and stir again until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy. Pour this into a bowl and allow to cool slightly.
Sift the plain flour, almond meal and baking powder together into a clean bowl.
Lightly whisk the egg with the vanilla bean paste and drizzle into the warm mixture - stir constantly to incorporate and to the stop the egg from "cooking" in the heat.
Add in the cherries, followed by the sifted flour and stir until combined.
Pour the mixture evenly into a buttered and lined 10x28cm loaf tin, smoothing out the surface. Put the tin on an oven tray and bake in a preheated 160°C oven for about 60 minutes - if it still feels a little too soft, cover with foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
Let the loaf cool in the tin before unmoulding - and ice once cold. Spread the cooled ganache roughly over the surface, allowing it to dribble down the sides. Let the topping cool completely before serving.
You don't need to worry about the cake tasting like beer - what's left behind accentuates the flavours of the other ingredients. It's almost brownie like in texture, it is moist and chewy but not heavy. The dried cherries which stud the cake break up the chocolate flavour with an intense hit of sweet cherry. The chocolate ganache makes it a little more decadent but without adding any more sweetness to the cake.
A slice served with a good cup of coffee and you've got a wonderful afternoon treat to see you through the rest of the day.