Once again, in my world TWD turns out to be a Thursday with Dorie. I did actually have it finished on Tuesday, but we didn't get around to eating it until today. And it was good!
Thank you, Amy of Food, Family and Fun, for choosing this elegant and decadent confection! For the recipe, check out her blog or better yet, buy The Book and look on pages 288-289.
First of all, this gave me an excuse to buy two darling mini heart-shaped flan rings I'd been coveting. Now, what sort of ice cream to use? I settled on Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, one of our all-time favorites. For extra kick I mixed in some of the cherry-brandy syrup from our home-made maraschino cherries.
This was the first year our dwarf sour cherry tree gave us a decent crop of cherries. Most of them went into a pie, but a few ended up as maraschino cherries. I love the look and idea of these preserved cherries, but the commercial versions fill me with horror. They taste mostly of sugar and chemicals. Yuck! So I soaked a handful of sour cherries in brine for a day, drained, and poured over a syrup of cherry juice concentrate, sugar, brandy and a touch of almond extract. Up above you see two of the results. They are smaller and paler than the commercial kind, but they taste of real cherries. And brandy. And sugar -- but not enough. Note to self -- next year, use a heavier, sweeter syrup. They need it.
On to the chocolate "ganache." This certainly isn't a traditional ganache. It has chocolate, of course (I went with Valrhona 71% Amer Noir), but no cream at all. Lots of butter and eggs, and some sugar. As a number of other folks have pointed out, it's really more like a fudge or a French Silk pie filling. And it has raw eggs.
Well, I'm not too much alarmed by using raw eggs as long I as am the one in charge of the process. I am careful when using them. But this sounded like a fun challenge. Could I find a way to heat the eggs enough to be "officially" safe without ruining the recipe?
I went over to the Egg Board's site and found some useful information at these links: http://www.incredibleegg.org/egg_facts_handling4.html and http://www.incredibleegg.org/egg_facts_handling9.html.
So the options are bringing the eggs to 140 degrees F for at least 3 1/2 minutes, or bringing them to 160 which is supposed to work "instantly." Trouble is, whole eggs cook and set up somewhere between 144-158 degrees. The second link above tells you how much sugar and/or liquid you have to add to the eggs in order to be able to bring them up to 160 without setting. But Dorie's recipe doesn't have that much sugar. Does butter "count" as a liquid for keeping the eggs from setting? What about chocolate? Wait, chocolate really doesn't like to be heated too hot, at least when it is all by itself. And I don't want to waste good chocolate...let's just experiment with the butter, sugar and eggs.
My first experiment was to use just 1/4 of the ganache recipe. I mixed eggs and sugar together, melted the butter without the chocolate, stirred it into the eggs, and set the mixture in a metal bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. I whisked with one hand and measured the temperature with the other. The mixture started to set up around 150 degrees. No way was it going to make it to 160.
Next try, I brought the mixture up to about 145 and turned the heat under the water way, way down. Then I started a timer going and kept stirring. My goal was to keep the temperature above 140 (or maybe a little more, just in case my thermometer was a little off or some parts of the mixture were a little cooler) for at least 4 minutes. (Again, I added that extra half-minute just for a safety margin.) I actually had to turn the burner up just a tad but that worked fine.
I stirred the finely chopped chocolate into the hot mixture and set it in a pan of cold water to cool it down. It also got a dose of the cherry-brandy-syrup.
The rest was just a matter of layering, freezing, waiting...assembling this dessert is kind of tedious. After taking all the trouble to heat the eggs, no way was I going to leave the ganache out on the counter during the whole procedure, so I tucked it into the fridge. Good thing, because I ran out of time that evening. The second layer didn't go on until the next morning. I set the small bowl of ganache in a pan of warm water, stirred occasionally until spreadable, and finished off my heart tortes.
Then we got so busy that we didn't have time to properly appreciate it until today. It was GOOD. And a very appropriate way to celebrate our twenty-first "unniversary." (That's the anniversary of when we first became a couple. We lived together but were not married for most those years, so we always called it our "unniversary." Now that we're married we have an "anniversary" too, but that's in October.)
One heart was enough for both of us (romantic, isn't it?) and so the other one has gone into the freezer for later.
(We just got one of these handy devices -- a Reynolds Handi-Vac. It's an inexpensive way to do vacuum sealing and we love it!)