Tip: Use your curiosity in the kitchen. This excessive and decadent dessert bar came from curiosity. I had never tried or even known about a maraschino cherry that wasn’t artificially bright red, waxy, sugary, somewhat medicinal in flavor. And then I had a Manhattan cocktail, accompanied by a single speared cherry…and I needed more of those cherries. The search began; I splurged on a 3-pack of what I learned was Luxardo Original Maraschino Cherries from Italy. I soon realized that it would be many, many years before we would make enough cocktails at home to enjoy those special cherries. Curiosity struck again…what else could I do with them? How might they taste in baked goods? I can tell you it was a good decision to be curious (acknowledging my own bias). 😉 Try this recipe for yourself — and always explore your own curiosity in the kitchen!
2 ¼ c flour
½ c sugar
1 c (8 oz) cold unsalted butter
½ c sugar
¼ c brown sugar, packed
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp good quality whiskey or brandy (optional)
14 oz jar Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
¼ c syrup strained from cherries
½ c sliced or slivered almonds
3 oz high quality dark chocolate
2 tsp unsalted butter for drizzle
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Toast almonds on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes, stirring after about 3 minutes to prevent uneven browning. Move the toasted nuts off the hot pan to paper towels to cool.
Cut cold butter into chunks; set aside.
Drain cherries in a strainer over a bowl; reserve the syrup. Cut each cherry in half; set aside.
In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and butter chunks until crumbly. Press mixture into 9”x13” pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
While crust is baking, whisk together eggs, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla and almond extract, ¼ c. cherry syrup (reserve the rest for another use) and optional whiskey or brandy. Stir in chopped cherries and toasted almonds. Spread evenly on top of crust. Bake 23-27 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Remove from oven; cool for at least 1 hour.
Prepare Chocolate Drizzle
Combine the dark chocolate and 2 tsp butter in heat-proof bowl. Place in turned-off oven for 5-7 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes until melted and blended together. Pour into a piping bag, snip a small opening and pipe over cooled bars or drizzle over with a spoon.
Let chocolate cool to firm a bit; cut bars and serve. Bars should be stored covered in the refrigerator or they can be frozen.