This recipe has long been on my 'create a healthy version' to-do list, owing to the fact that my hubby is a big fan of Cherry Ripe bars and I too have fond memories of enjoying the homemade slice version growing up. I remember making homemade cherry ripe slice for family gatherings from glace cherries, sweet plain biscuits, vegetable shortening (Copha) and dark chocolate. In those days we didn't understand that vegetable shortening was bad for us, being plant-derived we thought it was all good. These days of course, we know better!
Copha is made from coconut oil, the very oil that is receiving so much positive attention these days, and rightly so . . but do not confuse this product with something nutritious . . . the coconut oil in vegetable shortening has been stripped off all it's therapeutic and preventative power during the processes of refining, bleaching and deodorising (which involves the use of high temperatures and chemicals), and then finally hydrogenation.
Coconut oil is already largely saturated, which explains why it is a semi-solid at temperatures below room temperature. But during the process of hydrogenation, the remaining polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are flooded with hydrogen gas and their molecular structure rearranged such that the melting point of the fat is increased and you end up with a solid block of fat at room temperature. Not only is the coconut oil turned rancid during the process of extraction and refining, and vitamins and antioxidants destroyed, but trans fats are also formed. I have briefly discussed trans fats here in a recent post.
Unfortunately sweet commercial biscuits are usually also a source of trans fats or at the very least, highly refined vegetable oils. Not to mention a source of refined sugar and flour! One of the great things about 'baking' at home is that you control the ingredients and in this case my healthier version features genuine healthy fats with nothing to hide . . . organic cold pressed virgin coconut oil, raw cacao butter and pesticide-free raw almonds. Rather than using sweet biscuits in this recipe to provide bulk to the bottom layer in combination with desiccated coconut, I have utilised freshly ground raw almonds.
I have also departed from using glace cherries to flavour this slice, because for me glace cherries are too far removed from the real thing, which is usually candied in fructose syrup and sugar with added colourings. Dried cherries unfortunately do not pack enough colour for the result I wanted to achieve with the base layer, so I decided to try a combination of goji berries, which always add a lovely vibrancy to my 'baking', and freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries which are beautifully red in colour and fragrant. If you can source freeze-dried cherries you could try these too!
Freeze drying causes less damage to the fruit than other drying methods which involve higher temperatures, such that the flavour, aroma and nutritional content remain largely unchanged. This is also the method used to produce many of the new 'super' fruit products on the market these days that have travelled half way across the globe to make it to your table, for e.g. freeze dried powders of acai and camu berries which are readily available in speciality health stores. As a whole food product, the phytonutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are preserved and concentrated in these wonderful powders. So if your budget allows it, adding a tablespoon or so a day to your breakfast, smoothie, juice or raw dessert is a great way to boost nutrition. Now let's get to the recipe finally! I hope you like it :)
20g dried goji berries + 20g filtered water
50g freeze dried berries (strawberries, raspberries, cherries or a mix)
100g raw almonds
80g raw cacao butter, chunks
2 tbsp coconut oil
180g desiccated coconut
40g coconut flour
100g fresh medjool dates, pitted
1tsp vanilla bean paste
120g coconut nectar
2 tbsp cacao powder
120g coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (optional)
1. In a small bowl combine goji berries and filtered water. Meanwhile add freeze dried raspberries to the TM bowl and grind into a powder for 10-20 seconds on speed 9. Decant and put aside in a bowl.
2. Add raw almonds to the TM bowl and grind for 10-15 seconds on speed 7 and decant into the same bowl as the raspberry powder.
3. Add raw cacao chunks to the TM bowl and grate for 5-10 seconds on speed 7. Add coconut oil and heat for 3 minutes at 37°C or until melted, on speed 2.
4. Return raspberry powder and ground nuts to the TM bowl with the remaining ingredients, including the water soaked goji berries, and mix on speed 8 until well combined for 15-20 seconds.
5. Press the mixture evenly into a lined 20x20cm square pan and set aside while you make the topping. Wash & dry the the TM bowl ready to make the chocolate topping.
6. To prepare the topping: combine the topping ingredients in TM bowl and combine at 37°C for 2 minutes on speed 3 or until the coconut oil has melted and the mixture is well blended. Pour immediately over the base and refrigerate until set. Cut into slices to serve.
- use 50g of a super fruit powder in place of the freeze-dried raspberries, but keep in mind that it will influence the flavour and colour of the base
- try using hazelnuts in place of the almonds
Try using a powerful food processor or blender to make the base and low-heat on a stovetop, or a microwave to make the raw cacao topping.
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