I’m back! Back to The Food Matters Project that is.

I have had an incredibly busy couple of weeks and had to opt out of the last two challenges and boy, I am glad to be back! I love being challenged by new ingredients, ideas and techniques and really missed participating in the Savory Tomato Crisp challenge and the Braised Chickpea Fritters and Vegetables Challenge.

The good news is that I am back just in time for a fabulous DESSERT challenge. Our host this week is Margarita from Let’s Cook and Be Friends. Margarita chose a really interesting Bittman recipe, “Chocolate-Cherry Panini (page 555)”.

As soon as I saw the list of ingredients I knew I was going to do a crispy chocolate bite using the sour dried cherries called for in the Panini and a (new to me) spice that I have been dying to try called Mahlab. Mahlab, commonly used in middle-eastern cooking  was introduced to me by my friend Faith from the blog, An  Edible Mosaic. It is the seed kernel from the center of St. Lucie cherries. To learn more about it, check out Faith’s Cherry Sauce recipe where she both uses Mahlab and discusses it in more detail.

Originally, I planned to do a Chocolate-Cherry Wafer Crisp inspired by Aura’s (one of the FMP members) Chocolate Wafers with Ginger, Fennel and Sea Salt but the only wafer’s they had when I went food shopping were Rye and I just thought it was going to overpower the  Chocolate and Cherry flavors. I am still determined to do something fun with this crisp idea so don’t be surprised when you see it again in the future!

After I picked up the dried sour cherries, I turned to my pantry and saw some brown rice cereal. I remembered a 3-Ingredient Crispy Rice Fudge recipe that inspired me a couple of months ago and then it hit me – Chocolate Cherry Crunch Bites. These bites are divine!

Imagine if a Nestle Crunch was all-natural and paired up with the bulk foods section of Whole Foods Market, making pit stops at the spices and dried fruit.

Yep, that is these guys. They are so good. But don’t take my word for it, make them yourself.

NOTES:

  • You can find Mahlab at a Middle-Eastern food store, at Penzey’s or even on Amazon.com
  • I bought the dried, sweetened sour red cherries in bulk from Whole Foods. I only bought what I needed for this recipe (1 cup) since they are pretty pricey. Wherever you get them, just make sure they are unsulphured. Here is a great link discussing it.
  • Read the notes section of my Coffee & Kahlua Chip Brownie recipe to learn more about a double-boiler. Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave, taking care to frequently remove and stir it. I find that the chocolate gets really hot in the microwave and the double boiler is just easier for me.
  • There are many natural brands of brown rice crisps. I usually buy 365, which is Whole Foods Markets brand.
  • I used a “Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Bar” for this recipe, similar to my Holiday Bark. The one I used is 54% Dark Chocolate. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, just use a pound (the Pound Plus is only 1.6 ounces more than a pound) of your favorite Dark Chocolate. I don’t suggest going higher than 65% Dark.
The Food Matters Project: Chocolate Cherry Crunch Bites
 
Prep:

Cook:

Total:

 

2 Points Plus Per Square — Recipe Makes 48 Squares
By:
Serves: 48

Ingredients

  • 1 cup naturally sweetened dried sour cherries (without sulphur)
  • 2 cups natural brown rice cereal
  • 1 pound bar dark chocolate (see NOTES)
  • ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground Mahlab (see NOTES)
  • pinch sea salt

Instructions
  1. Start by lining a 9×13 pyrex (lasagna type) baking dish with parchment paper. Roughly chop the cherries into small pieces.
  2. Combine the rice cereal and cherries in the baking dish.
  3. Set up a double boiler to melt the chocolate. I always break my choclate bar up into pieces so that it not only melts faster, but more evenly.
  4. If you bought whole Mahlab, use a spice grinder to grind it.
  5. Once completely melted, stir in the Mahlab, almond extract and salt.


  6. Quickly pour the chocolate over the cereal and cherries and use a spatula to combine and evenly flatten. Place in the refrigerator to set for at least one hour.


  7. To serve, cut vertically into quarters.
  8. Cut each quarter in half.
  9. Rotate and cut each section into six pieces to achieve 48 individual bites.

    Store refrigerated in a container or tin separating the layers with parchment paper for up to a week (if they last that long!). Enjoy!

To see what all of the other Food Matters Project members made this week, click here!