When I was a kid I thought Robin Hood: Men In Tights was the last word in genius filmmaking. The very last. I rewatched it a few years ago and boo-urns, it really wasn't that hilarious to me anymore. I guess when I was an impressionable youth, all it took was a few anachronisms and the merry men rapping their exposition and I was happy. I find it interesting what pop culture from my youth holds up to me - inexplicably Babysitters Club books yes, The Wedding Singer sadly no, despite how bodacious I thought Billy Idol was. Princess Bride, better with every watch, whereas time has not been kind to Aqua's sound production. All 90s R'n'B without exception yes, Limp Bizkit...no. A thousand times nay. This is just me, what say you?
I ask, because when eating a Cherry Ripe chocolate bar on the weekend (Americans: they're like an Almond Joy with cherries instead of almonds) it became clear that it was unfairly undelicious. Weak chocolate. Nosebleed-inducing sweetness. Flavour more meh-ry than cherry. I was really, really hungry and I'd been lifting heavy things all afternoon so I ate the lot anyway. But I was sure they used to be nicer. Not that I had Scarface-level piles of cherry ripes around me as a kid. They're only a relatively recent love of mine from the last decade or two. And yet. At first I thought it was my tastebuds evolving, and with all this "Mmm, tapenade and crackers" and "I love hummus!" and so on it had pushed out all the space available for enjoying the process of having your mouth waterblasted with sugar. But would a person who makes a pavlova and covers it in smarties say that? (I'm talking about myself, if you didn't click that link.) I think not. So maybe it's the fault chocolate bars? I do know a lot of people I've talked to are convinced Creme Eggs used to be better when they were kids. So.
Anyway I thought, to quote Jason Robert Brown: I can do better than that.
I had half a can of cherries in the fridge leftover from making Purple Jesus for Tim's birthday last year. Coconut doesn't cost much and I suspected condensed milk would be excellent glue to hold it all together. Finally I selected the kind of dark chocolate whose pure intensity of flavour and excellence of texture is matched only by its accessibility and reasonable price: Whittaker's Dark Ghana. Bonus: sometimes if you're lucky and the humidity is just so, this block of chocolate honestly sounds like a maraca when you snap it.
It worked. OH HOW IT WORKED!
I'm not implying that if you do like Cherry Ripes we can't hang out or anything, never! None of that. All I'm saying is: In my personal opinion I don't like them anymore, and this is my attempt at recreating the Cherry Ripe so I do like it. So no need for hand-wringing.
Cherry-Coconut Chocolate Bars (Ah, c'mon, couldn't use the registered brand name thingy, could I? I did consider Shmerry Shmipes, so feel free to use that.)
2 1/2 cups dessicated coconut
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
1 cup drained cherries from a jar
1 x 250g block very dark chocolate (I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
In a large pan, over a low heat, lightly toast the coconut until slightly nut-brown in parts. At this point, tip in the entire can of condensed milk and continue to stir, doing your best, over a low heat. Add the cherries - it will turn a ridiculous purple-grey, just go with it - and continue stirring till it forms a solid paste-like texture.
Remove from the heat, and tip the mixture onto a large sheet of baking paper on a bench, or onto a silicon baking sheet. Use the spatula to prod and spread and shape this forgiving mixture into a rough square, then use either a dough cutter or a knife and a fish slice to divide them into squares and shift them apart from each other.
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a metal or china bowl that's big enough to rest on top of a small pot of water. Bring said pot of water to the boil, which will gently melt the chocolate. Or you could microwave it, if you've got one. Use a teaspoon to transfer melted chocolate on top of each square of coconut, spreading it across and down the sides as per the above photo. Once they're set, use the fish slice or a spatula or whatever to carefully flip them over, then using the remaining chocolate - which you might have to carefully re-melt, drizzle chocolate over (I use a kind of loose-wristed flinging movement which isn't overly successful, to be honest.) If you feel like you've got enough chocolate you could just spread the chocolate over the bases so the coconut is entirely concealed. Store in a cool place.
All that writing makes it look like the most painfully complex recipe in history but I'm just trying to be elaborate with the instructions. This is honestly easy. There's nothing fiddly involved, just a bit of time.
Just a bit of stirring and spreading and slicing and melting and spreading and Jackson Pollock drizzling and verily you end up with a whole flipping jar full of delicious, chewy-sweet chocolate bars. Not too sweet, weirdly enough, despite the entire can of condensed milk (minus whatever stuck to the underside of the top of the can, which I carefully removed with my tongue). I think this comes from the toasting of the coconut, the relative sourness of the cherries, and the cocoa onslaught of the dark, dark chocolate. These morsels are best kept in the fridge, which means when you bite into them you get the full texture ruckus of cold, firm chocolate snapping into softly coarse coconut and pliant condensed milk. It's truly splendid.
Seriously now. Try before you buy.
Nothing overly wacky to report from the weekend, as I was up in Auckland toiling away for work. Hence the post-toil cherry ripe bar which inspired all this. The time away toiling has rendered me completely useless which is why this blog post took forever to get to you. And even with all this time simmering away, it hasn't necessarily improved. Did however have a "drawing club" at Kate and Jason's house with what little time was left of my weekend, which was as gloriously old-timily fun as it sounds (or as awful as it sounds, depending on your opinion I guess). I got a rush of happiness from doing something I haven't done since probably 1994 - just lying on the floor at a friend's place drawing all afternoon. Finished the day with Jo and Laura (another one!) seeing out the first season of Veronica Mars. Leslie Knope has a hot contender for being my Favourite Fictional Hero Whose Fictionality Doesn't Hinder Their Influence Upon Me...I can tell you.
Wait! Something a bit exciting: at our last book group, you know, the one with literary karaoke to three different versions of Wuthering Heights, I got a call from Australia's edition of Vice magazine because they were wanting to talk to some people in Wellington about what they were up to of a weekend. Despite being genuinely excited about book club I wasn't sure if the concept would translate particularly well, but lo: here I am in Vice! FYI, they asked me to send in a photo and I didn't realise it'd be that big. Has my face always been that crooked? And ruddy-nosed? And, let's face it, was my hair always that awesomely huge?
Title via: Runaways, Cherry Bomb. I love the threatening way Cherie Curry spits out "HELLO" in the chorus.
Tim made me listen to this song by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 99 and a Half Won't Do. Now I'm trying to make you listen to it. It's a beauty.
Who Are You, by Julien Dyne feat Ladi6 and Parks. Brill. Complicated and straightforward at the same time. I love the twinkly triangles and swirly piano notes.
Next time: I'm heading back up to Auckland this week for yet more toiling, but hopefully it won't be quite so long before I bounce back this time round.