One of my favorite songs, is "Oh, Sherry" by Journey...yes, I'm a Journey fan and Steve Perry's vocals for this 80s rock band was the inspiration for these cherry (instead of Sherry), white chocolate, and pistachio bars I baked today.
I discovered it's also the 100th Anniversary of the gift of the cherry trees (Sakuras), from Japan to our Nation, and in celebration of this beautiful gesture I wanted to honor this occasion with my recipe. The unseasonably warm weather in Washington, D.C. brought out the blossoms early, but nonetheless, spectacular. I've been lucky enough to have lived in the Maryland/D.C. area and visit Tokyo to witness this moment when Spring has indeed arrived. Just driving down the Basin, you are in awe of these pink beauties standing in a rows as if they are debutante's at their coming-out ball. All over Japan, they celebrate this time by having family picnics under the trees, called Hanami--literally means "viewing flowers," which is the primary reason for this event, but a variety of Japanese performing arts are also part of this tradition.
Oh! Cherry, Not All Alone Bars
2 cups + 1 T (4 sticks + 1T) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 1/3 + 2 T light (or golden) brown sugar, packed
2 T molasses
2 Vanilla beans, split and scraped or 1 T Vanilla extract
4 large eggs
4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups dried cherries, soaked in 3/4 cup hot water with a Pomegranate/Cherry Green Tea bag
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped pistachio
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.
Melt butter and use approximately 1T to brush the 12"x17" baking pan with, then line bottom with parchment and brush with more butter.
Bring 3/4 cup of water to a boil (I did mine in the microwave for 1 minute). Add the tea bag (if using), then the dried cherries. Let steep about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid and coarsely chop the cherries.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, measure the brown sugar, vanilla (beans or extract) and molasses. Beat on medium to blend. Add the slightly cooled butter while the mixer is on low to slowly incorporate. When it looks like most of the butter has been absorbed by the sugar, raise the speed to medium and beat well. Test the bottom of the bowl, underneath, for temperature before adding the eggs (you wouldn't want scrambled eggs in your mixture:-) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and beat again.
Add the dry ingredients--flour, baking powder and salt and mix on med/low to incorporate--don't over mix. Remove from the stand and with a spatula, make sure all the flour mixture is indeed incorporated. Stir in the chopped, dried cherries, 1 cup of the white chocolate chips, and 3/4 cup of the pistachios.
Spoon mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Sprinkle top with the remaining 1 cup white chocolate chips and 3/4 cup of pistachios.
Bake for 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 325F-degrees and rotate pan. Bake an additional 16 to 18 minutes, until golden brown.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2-3 T reserved cherry/tea liquid
1 T light Karo syrup
Mix all the ingredients together and drizzle over the bars, if desired.
Sharing the beauty of nature is truly a wonderful gift--Happy Anniversary Cherry Trees. Enjoy!