Vegan Sweet Cherry Bars
December 27, 2019

Vegan Sweet Cherry Bars | The Full Helping

What better way to start a new year than with these vegan sweet cherry bars? Proof that delicious treats can feature nourishing ingredients.

This season can be loaded with messages about food and diet that are anything but wholesome. I don’t like to enter into a new year with any focus on either elimination or excessive dietary strictness. But I do greet January as a time to consider how food can support my body. In that spirit, I’m thinking about the benefits of sweet cherries.

The benefits of dark sweet cherries

When the folks at NW Cherry Growers approached me about this campaign, I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t reach for cherries when I was younger, but I’ve come to appreciate them over time. It really isn’t until recently that I realized that tart cherries are a little too tart for me. On the other hand, I love the deep, almost candy-like flavor of sweet cherries.

My vegan sweet cherry bars feature dark, sweet cherries in all of their juicy goodness. They also feature the benefits of sweet cherries. These include (but aren’t limited to) anti-inflammatory action, thanks to powerful plant pigments that function as antioxidants. Sweet cherries contain compounds that can help our bodies to combat the effects of stress and aging. The tryptophan, serotonin and melanin in sweet cherries may even help to regulate sleep cyclces!

You can make the vegan sweet cherry bars at any time of year with a bag of frozen sweet cherries. Better still, you can make them in the summer, when Pacific Northwest-grown cherries are in season. What a great way to celebrate the season!

Why I love these vegan sweet cherry bars

My favorite way to showcase sweet cherries is to bake with them. I’ve found that their deep, sweet flavor works beautifully with whole grain baked goods. My last favorite treat was this upside down cherry cake. It proved to me that the sweetness of dark cherries pairs beautifully with the nutty flavor of whole grain flours.

As we approach the new year, I wanted to create a baking recipe that was also rich in whole grain flour, for a little extra fiber. And of course I wanted it to show off sweet cherries in all of their colorful, nutritious glory.

These bars are it! They’re not granola bars. They’re tender and fluffy, reminiscent of coffee cake, right down to the sweet glaze. Even so, the level of sweetness here is basically sensible. In addition to having some whole grain flour in the batter, they call for olive oil in place of traditional butter. They’re altogether totally suitable for breakfast or a snack—and of course they’ve got those powerful phytonutrients from dark, sweet cherries.

Yes, these are a nod to my undying love of cake (should I start a separate cake blog?!). But my own approach to balance is to celebrate all of the goodness that nature gives us while also celebrating the art of treating ourselves. Baking is part of that. Hope you’ll enjoy this simple, anytime delight.

Vegan Sweet Cherry Bars | The Full Helping

Vegan Sweet Cherry Bars

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Yields: 12

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1 cup rye, spelt, or whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cane or coconut sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups non-dairy milk
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 12-16 ounces fresh or frozen sweet cherries, pitted and halved
  • Optional: 1 cup confectioners’ sugar + 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk, whisked to create a glaze for topping the cake

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 rectangular baking dish and line the
    bottom with a piece of rectangular parchment paper.
  • Whisk the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt together in mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer).
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, mix the oil,
    water, sugar, and vanilla extract together until well-mixed. Add the non-dairy milk and lemon juice and mix well. Add dry ingredients in two additions, mixing on medium speed as you go. When the batter is well mixed (just when no lumps are visible), pour ¾ of the batter into your prepared baking dish. Cover this layer with the halved, frozen cherries. Use a spoon to drop the rest of the batter on top of the cherries. They should be mostly covered, with some still peeking out from under the batter.
  • Transfer the baking dish to your oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the top is set. Cool the cake completely. If you’d like to glaze it, whisk together 1 cup of powdered sugar and two tablespoons of non-dairy milk till smooth, then pipe or drizzle it over the top of the cake. Cut into slices and enjoy!

Notes

Recipe yields 12 larger or 15 snack-sized pieces. 
 

 

Can these vegan sweet cherry bars be gluten-free?

Yes, they can! You can make the recipe with a gluten-free flour blend that you’ve used before and trust. If you do this, you’ll want to swap out all of the flour (3 cups total) for the gluten-free flour blend.

You can also change the flour proportions here. Instead of using a mixture of all purpose and whole grain flour, you can use 3 cups of white whole wheat flour. I think it’s the best bet for whole grain baked goods.

How do I store the bars? Can they be frozen?

Again, yes. Once you bake the bars, you can store them overnight in an airtight container. This is a good option if you plan to bring them to some sort of gathering. If you need to store them for longer than that, you should keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.

And if you need to freeze the vegan sweet cherry bars, that’s fine! They can be frozen individually or as a batch for up to 6 weeks. I think freezing them preserves their texture better than keeping them in the fridge for more than 4 days. So if you need to make them in advance, you can make, freeze, and defrost when you’re ready.

If you do that, you can glaze them after they’ve been defrosted!

I love this with coffee or tea, and I hope you will, too. Here’s to bringing in 2020 sweetly and healthfully, friends. See you soon, for weekend reading.

xo

This post is sponsored by Northwest Cherry Growers. All opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!

 

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    12 Comments
  1. Hi! Just waiting for this lovely creation to come out of the oven! How would you recommend storing them if only putting half in the freezer? Ok to put other half in container in fridge? Also, have you thought about adding dark chocolate chunk chips to this recipe? Thanks for the wonderful recipes!

    • I think dark chocolate would be lovely here, Beth! And funny you mentioned, since I’m working on a chocolate + cherry recipe right now 🙂

      Up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge will work well!

  2. I love cherries now, but like you grew up without wanting to eat a single one. My favorites are the golden (Rainier) cherries, which are so beautiful and somewhat sweeter, from what I can tell, than the red ones that tend to turn up around here. Thanks for outlining all the goodness they have in them! I am not that kind of doctor (at all) and I’m glad to learn from you.

  3. Hi Gena, thank you for this very timely post on the benefits of cherries. My partner is suffering from gout and I’d love to take a closer look at the study you reference in #12 but it seems like it might have been missed in the reference list? It says Blando et al. but I don’t see the original reference. Thanks!

    • Hi Tanya! That’s actually not the right reference, as it doesn’t discuss gout! Thanks for catching me—my error.

      This article does explore the connection, and it references other studies as well: Marcum W. Collins, Kenneth G. Saag, Jasvinder A. Singh. Is there a role for cherries in the management of gout? Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2019; 11: 1759720X19847018. Published online 2019 May 17. doi: 10.1177/1759720X19847018. I’ll update the post. I hope the reading is of interest to you and your partner!

  4. Cherries are in season where i live so this recipe comes at just the right time!
    By the way, the non-dairy milk seems to be missing on the recipe instructions.

    • I seem to be suffering from a case of end-of-year typos 🙂 Thanks Natasha! I added the milk and lemon (they get added to wet ingredients).