Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September 20-21, 2008: The cherry slice experiment

Though I don't buy them often any more, Cherry Ripe bars do have a special place in my sweet tooth. As a 3rd-year uni student, I would buy one every Thursday night in the break between grueling hour-long statistics lectures. They were the Aussie treat I missed most when I was studying in the U.S. - the American candy-coated interpretation of a cherry's flavour is entirely different. I've never been a huge fan of the cherry-coconut slices that imitate the chocolate bar, but Bella's vegan version still set the cogs whirring in my head. After all, there was no need to use those icky glace cherries now that I'd discovered the divine dried ones, right?

Bella warned me that this might not turn out quite as I envisaged, so devised an experiment. I'd make the slice in four ways, using a different cherry mixture in each one.

They are (clockwise from top-left): morello cherry jam, glace cherries, dried cherries and morello cherries preserved in syrup.

I pressed and baked the base, and it proved to have just the right level of sweetness, though it was a little thick and crumbly (I think I overcooked it). It was a little challenging to quickly stir the agar mixture through four separate bowls of cherry-coconut filling, but it was surprisingly easy to press this mixture into four neat quarters over the base. Finally, I spread over a mixture of coconut cream and dark chocolate - Lindt 70% made this a more bitter than sweet layer.

How'd my four test batches fare? Here's the break-down.

Glace cherries. The original cherry-coconut slice filler, the glace cherry's sweet syrupy flavour and lurid colour will be familiar to most. The copious coconut does well to soften its medicinal edge, and is faintly tinted pink.

Dried cherries. I suspect that not all dried cherries are created equal. I've previously bought some that were shriveled, mouth-puckering and still clinging to their pits, but these royal cherries from the Queen Victoria Market are pitted, still plump, sublimely tangy, and.... $40/kg. They do taste lovely in this slice, but they fail to meld at all with the coconut.

Morello cherry jam. This spread a cute (though not quite cherry-like) purple colour through the coconut. Unfortunately this jam was far too short on actual fruit pieces, and the flavour just didn't carry.

Morello cherries preserved in syrup. This option struck a good compromise across the board, without excelling in any category. The cherry pieces had a pleasing tang but are a bit watery compared to the dried cherries, their syrup lends a nice subtle colour to the coconut, and the overall meld is OK.

I'm not sure I can declare a clear winner! The glace cherries are traditionally popular, but don't float my boat. The preserved cherries look good and would probably have broad appeal. Yet it's still the dried cherries that I'm interested in exploring further (soak them in juice? reduce the coconut?). At this price, I'll have to be efficient about it.


  1. Wow Cindy-FOUR types of cherries- you really went all out!
    It looked so cute all laid out in neat quarters :)
    I think the most important thing that the glace cherries do in the recipe is give sweetness and stickiness to the coconut mix, so I guess those are the important things that need focus when subbing something else.
    Maybe you could try it with the dried cherries cooked/soaked in a sugar syrup until they plump up?
    What is it about glace cherries you dont like?

  2. You could also try combining them - the dried cherries with the jam might help with the consistency. I love the Bonne Maman cherry jam.

    There's also a really nice cherry juice out there that you could try soaking the dried cherries in..

    I'm desperately trying to remember the name for you and it's..just..on..the..tip..of..my...tongue.


    Unfortunately I only know where it is stocked in Perth! So that doesn't really help at the moment!

  3. Your devotion to science never ceases to astound me. I love this kitchen experiment.

    Hershey bet me to it - I was going to suggest combining the jam with the rehydrated dried cherries too. Oh I love black cherry jam. But adding cherry brandy (or similar) to reconstitute them is a master stroke!

  4. wow! I'm trying to eat a littl e better and this certainly could sway me to start cooking the GOOD stuff!

  5. I'm so impressed with this experiment, clearly springing from a sciency mind. I'm sure I would have been far more interested in chemistry at school had it involved more variable analysis in baked goods!

    Like some of the other posters have suggested, maybe a combination of the various stages of cherry would make for a more enjoyable slice?

    I have a terrible weakness for glace cherries, terrible I know! Barely any actual fruit content at all. Perhaps the love is because they remind me of home made Christmas fruit cake, mmmm.

  6. Oohh! I blame my father for my (inherited) addiction to the ol' cherry slice. I don't keep it in the house very often because I WILL sit there and eat the lot.

    Based on what you've written I like hershey's idea of combining the dried cherries with the jam, or soaking the dried cherries in juice. If you try that, give us an update!

  7. Thanks for all your suggestions! Some kind of soaking liquid seems to be the key, and I have also been thinking about that Italian sour cherry syrup you can sometimes find at delis. (Not sure what its intended use is but I like to drink it with soda water.) Maybe I can reduce my next experiment to two or three treatments. :-)

    It's become apparent that science is not just my work, it's the way my mind (always) works.

    Bella, I find that glace cherries have a slightly bitter, medicinal edge that I just can't get over. Looks like there are plenty of cherry-like alternatives to try anyway. :-)

    Hi Hershey! I think I may have seen a cherry-and-something fruit juice here in Melbourne. I'll give it a go if I can track it down!

    Cherry brandy, AOF? I can see that making some of my nearest and dearest eaters very very happy!

    Stay strong, Mel! At least until I perfect my version of the recipe... though if you love glace cherries, go right ahead with Bella's recipe and have some friends around to reduce the damage. :-)

    Hayley, don't get me onto the topic of high school science! It did its best to put me off a career in it... and ultimately failed. Similarly, Home Ec didn't manage to nurture a love of cooking in me. Maybe I'm just a slow learner!

    Maffy, there will definitely be a follow-up experiment or two appearing on these pages!

  8. I am in awe of your dedication to sweet treats! And drooling over your cherry creation...

  9. Thanks Lisa! Maybe I'll bring round 2 to the potluck...