One of the standard Christmas goodies around here (that is to say, in my house) has been Cherry Ripe Bars (‘slice’ in Australia, but I’ve lived in Minnesota long enough to call them ‘bars’ now). As an Australian expat Cadbury’s Cherry Ripe chocolate bar is a little taste of ‘home’ which isn’t practical to have too often. For years I’ve made a variation on the recipe in one of the two cookbooks that moved to the US with me, The Esk Valley CWA cookbook (1986), as my go-to substitute. The filling has always been a bit squishy making the finished bars hard to cut and handle, so this year I went looking for alternative recipes.
I found a few recipes with a cooked filling, but some didn’t look right (beige with a few cherry bits instead of really pink) . The recipe at My Kitchen Stories seemed like a good starting point. I combined a filling based off this new recipe with a crust based off my original recipe.
This recipe makes a lot. I make it in an 11×17 inch pan. I’m sure you could make a half recipe in a smaller pan, but this just works out well as it uses a full can of sweetened condensed milk and a full package of cherries. I cut the edges off (for immediate sampling) and then get about 112 (or 8×14) bite-sized pieces from a pan this size. It freezes well though, so plenty to pull out for a special treat here and there 🙂
Ingredient and equipment notes:
You’ll want a food processor for this recipe. I’m sure it could be done without one, but I wouldn’t want to. There is no need to wash the food processor between steps.
I like to use a pastry roller (mine is from Pampered Chef) for the base, but you could use a drinking glass if needed.
Australian recipes often call for dessicated coconut, which I’m not able to purchase in my local grocery store, so I use shredded coconut which has been through the food processor. Note that the volume reduces quite a bit, so if you are using this substitution in another recipe, process it before measuring. This recipe uses one 5-1/3 cup or 14 oz package. The picture shows before and after processing it.
Candied or glacé cherries are the ones that are available around Christmas, but not during the year in some stores. One of the main ingredients in US candied cherries is corn syrup. These are not the same as maraschino cherries … or pie filling … please don’t try to use either of those 🙂
Line a 10×15″ cookie pan (the kind of pan that has 3/4″ sides) with foil or parchment paper.
1 C walnuts
1-1/2 C shredded coconut
2 sleeves graham crackers
3/4 C butter
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C cocoa
16 oz candied / glacé cherries
(approximately) 4 C shredded coconut (the rest a 14 oz package)
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
2-3 TB coconut oil (or butter)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 11×17 pan with foil or parchment.
- Crush graham crackers in food processor and put in a mixing bowl.
- Pulse walnuts in the food processor until finely chopped and add to the large bowl.
- Process 1-1/2 C coconut in the food processor and add to the large bowl.
- Melt butter, add sugar & cocoa on the stovetop, bring to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in eggs until the mixture is smooth.
- Pour over dry ingredients and mix well.
- Press into prepared pan as evenly as possible
- Process the candied cherries until they are a gooey mess, and put them in a second bowl.
- Process the remaining coconut in the food processor, and add to the bowl (the coconut will help pick up the remaining cherry goo, and will turn slightly pink.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk and combine.
- Gently spread the cherry mixture over the base.
- Bake for 30 minutes until it is slightly brown and slightly puffed.
- Cool completely.
- Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil or butter in a microwavable bowl for 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
- Spread chocolate over the bars as evenly as possible. It sometimes helps to tap the pan or drop it from a few inches onto the counter.
- Let set overnight at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator to hurry it up.
- Remove from the pan and sandwich the uncut bar between two cutting boards to turn upside down and peel off the foil or parchment, then turn right side up again before cutting.
- Wipe the knife off with a spatula or damp cloth if needed between cuts.