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.
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.