When I was growing up, Violet Crumbles and Crunchies were my favourite chocolate bars. Both featured honeycomb and chocolate, and I remember biting them slowly and letting the shards of honeycomb slowly fizz and dissolve with the chocolate in my mouth. Such was my devotion to these honeycomb masterpieces that no other chocolate bar held much appeal at all, and some I even viewed with outright hostility as a complete abomination. Sounds extreme, I know, but children have strong views about this stuff. And by far, my least favourite chocolate bar was the Cherry Ripe, a sludge of cherries and coconut, dipped in dark chocolate. This was the chocolate I always gave away, or threw away. I didn't like the look of it or the taste at all.
But then I grew up. And I fell in love. Twice. Once with my husband and once with chocolates and cherries. Okay, that last bit is a little bit exaggerated, but I do really love chocolate and cherries together now, even in a Cherry Ripe. When I spotted the recipe for this slice in a Martha Stewart Holiday Cookie magazine, all I could think was "Cherry Ripes but better." And it was. I have since made this recipe a couple of times and I need to pass on a warning. This slice is so good it will make you want to keep sneaking tiny little corners, largely because of the intense chocolatey flavour, with a little kick of salt in it. So much so, that I need to give away most of every batch because otherwise I will eat it up. Dried cherries aren't always easy to find here, but sometimes they are available from health food shops. If you can't find them, or they are too pricey, consider substituting dried cranberries.
Chocolate Cherry Crumb Slice
adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 20 small squares
1 1/4 cups dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, all but 2 tablespoons cut into small pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
2 cups plus 7 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 160C. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan then line with baking paper, allowing a 2-inch overhang. Bring cherries, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and the water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost all liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved.
Whisk together cocoa powder, salt, brown sugar, toasted coconut, and 2 cups flour in a bowl. Blend in remaining butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; press 3 lightly packed cups cocoa mixture into prepared pan. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes.
Put egg and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale, about 4 minutes. Fold in cherry mixture and remaining 7 1/2 teaspoons flour; stir in chocolate. Spread mixture evenly over crust; sprinkle with remaining cocoa mixture. Push down on the topping but only very lightly. You want a crumbly texture after baking. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Run a knife around sides; lift out of pan. Cut into squares. Bars can be stored up to 5 days, either at room temperature or in the fridge. (Keeping it in the fridge gives it a fudgier texture).