Cherry Bars

I was fortunate to live in Arlington Virginia for about 18 months.   Though I’d visited before as a child I found Washington DC (we were 15 minutes from the National Mall, one exit to Georgetown) was a constantly unfolding treasure trove of history and cultural riches.  I’d lived in big cities and loved the feeling of ‘DC’ which was much more like a town to me.  Certainly with a strong political and cultural pulse but welcoming and approachable, with all its jewels laid out for the exploring.
I would often drive to the National Mall and stroll through the Smithsonian museums for the duration of my 2 hour parking meter allowance.  I loved that the museums were all poised shoulder to shoulder for visitors to conveniently weave in and out and that they were free.  We toured many a visitor around the area and certainly a favorite spot was Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.  The estate is well maintained to preserve the feeling of the day, sprawling over rolling grassy hills running down to the Potomac River. 
I especially loved the gardens where he had grown fruit trees which still remain today.  Of course a burning question posed to the patient docents hundreds of times daily was ‘Is it true?’  The question of course being about the infamous myth regarding George in his tender youth hacking down his mother’s favorite cherry tree with a hatchet.  The story goes that George around the age of 7 was given his first hatchet (‘what were THEY thinking’?  I’ve been around 7 year old boys and cannot fathom they mesh well with sharpened pieces of steel, unsupervised nonetheless).  The tale goes that he was trying his hand on various sticks and plants and worked his way up to the beloved English Cherry tree.  Nicking it with the hatchet caused its death and when queried, angrily by his father, he confessed “I cannot tell a lie; I did it’.
Sadly for those hanging on the high moral virtues of young Washington, I was told at Mount Vernon this was only a tale with no solid historical roots.  I did not care; I love the story.  And as a vestige of it will always think of cherries around President’s Day.
This little recipe is another from my newly discovered Kitchen Scrap Book published in 1937.  This Cherry Bar recipe seems befitting the upcoming President’s Day and was shared by Mrs. Fred Henslin (Herslin?).  It is a lovely bar with a shortbread bottom, topped with a beautifully chewy coconut, cherry, walnut spread baked to textural perfection.  The coconut flavor is faint and the cherry flavor distinct as it calls for Maraschino Cherries (so no worries about them being out of season).
CHERRY BARS
Despite drinking my share of Shirley Temples and liking a maraschino cherry as well as the next girl, I’ve grown to fear the unnatural color of the glowing scarlet orbs of sweetness.  I recently discovered a naturally dyed, cane sugar, no-artificial-anything variety at Whole Foods (by Tillen Farms).  They taste like the real thing however I sleep easier using them.
Yield: 16 bars
Prep time: 20 minutes (which overlaps with cooking time)
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Cooling time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
·         ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
·         1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
·         1 1/4 cup flour (I used gluten free)
·         ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
·         2 eggs, beaten
·         1 tablespoon juice from the maraschino cherries
·         ½ teaspoon baking powder
·         ½ teaspoon vanilla
·         ½ cup coconut, grated and unsweetened
·         ¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped
·         1 small bottle maraschino cherries*, stems removed, quartered

*I combined about 12 Tillen Farms natural Maraschino cherries, quartered, with about 20 homemade Maraschino Cherries soaked in Luxardo liqueur (click here), halved.  It made for a great flavor combination as each of the cherries is quite different.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9 inch by 9 inch square pan.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2.  Put butter into a bowl of a mixer and beat on low to soften; about 1-2 minutes.   Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup of flour to the butter.  Mix on low to fully combine.
3.  Spoon mixture into the bottom of prepared pan and pat down to cover bottom of pan.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.
4.  Place mixture in oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and set aside.
5.  While shortbread crust is cooking, place eggs, maraschino cherry juice, 1 cup sugar, ¼ cup flour, baking powder, vanilla in the bowl of a mixer and mix on low to combine fully.  Add in coconut and walnuts and mix on low just until mixed in.  Do not over mix.
6.  Spoon mixture over the shortbread crust.  Place cherries on top of the mixture.  Place in the 350 degree oven and bake until set (when toothpick removed is clean, and top has browned) about 30 minutes.  Do not over brown.
7.  Allow to cool on a rack for 20 minutes.  Slice and serve.

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Comments

    • says

      Hi Kirsten. I thought about using my cherries as well but decided to make it as the original recipe indicated (with a few tweaks). One thing about the maraschino cherries is that they have a stronger and more distinct flavor that stands up to the rest of the ingredients I think. Agree; love Washington DC. Was very fortunate to live there when I did.

  1. says

    These bars look delicious! I lived about 90 minutes from DC and it's a terrific town! These cherry bars are stunning and I am SO in love with that cookbook! Happy Valentines Day!

  2. says

    Cherry dessert are definitely one of my favorites. When we spend our couple weeks each summer up in northern Michigan at the lake, I'm always trying to find new ways to enjoy the amazing Michigan cherries. Perhaps I can twist this recipe up and use fresh cherries instead of Marachino cherries? I think I'll try!!

  3. says

    Oh, these look so good and chewy! We have great cherries here in the summer, too. I will try it with those, I think. Do you think it would work with dried cherries?

    • says

      I would try dried cherries, absolutely! I might reconstitute them a bit if they are really dried. I've had some dried cherries that still are fairly plump and easy to chew, and others that are almost filling-extracting! If the latter a brief soak, especially in cherry juice would be great I'd think.

  4. says

    What a delightful post. I wonder if you could use those wonderful frozen organic cherries at Costco? I love the way you tied in DC, Washington, Cherry Trees and the holiday. Good Job. I will need to try these.

    • says

      Thank you Connie! I think you should try the frozen cherries (thawed of course). The main flavor in the batter is the cherries so I think changing and adding the cherries you mention would just shift the flavor more toward a traditional cherry from the maraschino. Let me know how it works if you do it!

  5. says

    I found some good quality maraschinos the other day so I must pick them up for this recipe. BTW, I wanted you to know I nominated you for 2 blogging awards in my latest post, if you want to check it out. My way of saying thanks for all the great reading over the past year or so!

  6. says

    Gorgeous! I love that the recipe uses Maraschino cherries. And thanks for pointing out the Whole Foods option. First time I was in DC I spent an entire day weaving through the Smithsonian offerings. Perfect!

    • says

      DC is such a great place and really so compact. Do try the Tillen Farms Maraschino Cherries. They really are identical in flavor to traditional maraschinos but I personally feel alot better about the ingredients!

  7. says

    I crave cherries every February 22nd (I am that old to remember two President Days and loving February because of it). And hate to wait for cherry season… maybe dried cherries… really good dried cherries?

    • says

      Hi Claudia. Glad I'm not the only one with the Pavolvian relationship between cherries and President's Day! Another reader wondered about dried cherries. I'd try them. If they are really hard-dry maybe reconstitute them with some juice a bit first. Do let me know if you make them how it works!

    • says

      Thank you! I always think of cherries due to President's Day too. If you did not see it, check out the Cherry Pie I posted on President's Day. If you lover cherries, you'll be mad for this pie. I too love the little knife!

  8. says

    I just discovered your blog a couple of days ago, and I absolutely love it. I love the layout, your writing style, the clicks, and the concept. Just wanted to give some praise. The cherry bars look great, too. Good tip on the Tillen Farms cherries – I'll definitely remember that. Cheers!

    • says

      Christine what a generous comment, thank you. I am so glad you found me and hope you'll keep reading. Do check out the Tillen Farms cherries. They are delicious but without the less desireable aspects if dye in food is unappealling for you.

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