Blogging makes the world seem like one global community until it comes to sourcing ingredients that are common elsewhere than my own little corner of the world. Most foods I can substitute but as a lover of cherries, I wish we could readily buy the dried version.
I have grown up with glace cherries as part of most dried fruit mixes that are used in fruit cakes and puddings. Vividly red and senselessly sweet they don’t seem to have much in common with the dark complex flavours of fresh cherries. It is like comparing the sweetness and light of Pride and Prejudice with the gloom and intensity of Persuasion (no prizes for guessing what was on the telly tonight). While Lizzie Bennett is a fine heroine, I can’t help but feel that she is merely wishful thinking. Anne Elliot, on the other hand, is so much more authentic if we are trying to find Jane Austen preserved in her literature.
Similarly, glace cherries have a particular charm but a recent opportunity to taste dried cherries made me wonder why we would do this to fresh cherries. Why must they be processed beyond recognition? Why couldn’t they retain some of their intense flavour? What a waste of lovely cherries! According to Wikipedia, the practice of making glace, candied or crystallized fruit goes back to the 14th Century and involves boiling fresh fruit in a sugary syrup to preserve it. Sure drying it will do this just as well these days.
And why am I so concerned? Because I decided I would use dried cherries for two different recipes this week. I wanted to use them instead of glace cherries in a solstice cake for AOF’s event (which will take some time as all good fruit cakes do) and in Ricki’s Fig and Cherry Bars. But when I finally got to the one place in Melbourne that I know sells them (David Jones) there was one 80g packet left on the shelf! Plus, they are imported from the USA and ridiculously expensive.
I wanted to make Fig and Cherry Bars but instead I bought some dried mixed berries which was the next best thing. I would love to make these bars with cherries and envy Ricki a little for being easily able to buy them. However I was able to add dried apricots which are readily available and cost about a tenth of the price. I am sure now that you will understand me renaming these bars. Although I used berries and apricots for this batch, it would be easier to use just apricots next time with no sacrifice in taste.
I hope there will be a next time. These bars are easy to make. I made them after dinner and was able to nibble on one by the time I sat down to watch Spicks and Specks (a favourite music quiz show) on the telly. I have found them an excellent alternative to the choc chip cookies I like to make. These bars are delicious, nutritious and satisfying. I am much less likely to feel the need for just one more as I sometimes do with the cookies. Yet another great recipe from Ricki!
Fig and Almond Bars
(Adapted from Diet, Dessert and Dogs)
1¼ cups (200g) roughly chopped dried figs, stems removed
2 cups (200g) ground almonds
¼ cup (30g) finely ground flax seeds
zest of 1 orange
2 Tbsp (30ml) agave syrup (or orange juice?)
2 Tbsp (30ml) tahini
1 cup (130g) dried cherries, berries or dried apricots (I used a mixture)
Place figs in the food processor to finely chop. Add remaining dried fruit. If your food processor is like mine it will end up a ball of fruit. Add remaining ingredients and process further. It will look a bit like sticky crumbly dough and should hold together when pressed between your fingers.
Use the back of a spoon or your hands to press into a lightly greased a 28 x 18 cm (or 20cm x 20 cm) slice tin. (If you use your hands they will smell heavenly and I find it much easier than the back of a spoon.) Place in fridge til firm (about an hour) and then cut into bars. Ricki suggested 12 bars but I cut it smaller. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
On the Stereo: