Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Homemade Fruit Leather- An Experiment in Cooking Times

Ok guys, today we're talking fruit leather. It's a relatively simple concept, but I had a tough time with it the first time I made it, and I'll be sharing my trials and tribulations here!

The basic concept of fruit leather is: puree fruit, sweeten if you want to, spread fruit on parchment lined tray, bake in the oven at lowest temperature for about 6 hours until it has become fruit leather! In my trials, I learned that the last bit is a liiiiiitle bit tougher than I thought it would be.

The first round of fruit leather I made was made using the raspberries I picked a couple of weeks ago (more on that here) and some apricots. Here's how things went with that batch:
To start, I measured out 6 cups of raspberries, and chopped up 6 apricots. Then, to soften the fruit, I cooked it in a large pan over the stove, along with about 1/2 cup of sugar, until the fruit was soft.
Then, I used a stick blender (if you don't have one, get one. They're amazing. It is probably my #1 most recommended kitchen tool) to puree the fruit.
After the fruit was pureed, I ladled it onto a parchment lined baking sheet, spread it to about 1/8" thick, and baked it in the oven at 170°F, which is the lowest my oven would go.

Up until this point, it went great. The puree tasted awesome, and I knew it would sweeten up just a touch more during the cooking process, which would be perfect. Now, from everything I had read, fruit leather should bake in an oven of that temperature for about 5 hours. The thing is, when I checked at 5 hours, the corners of the fruit leather had set up, were no longer tacky, and peeled up from the parchment just like a fruit roll up. Only the edges though. The middle still seemed like fresh fruit puree but just a little stickier. So of course, I decided it needed to stay in longer.

I checked it again after another hour: still sticky. Then another hour: still sticky. Then another. And another. And by then end of those 9 hours, I had something that looked like this:
You can see that middle is nice and fruit leather-y, but boy oh boy did I burn those edges. Yessiree, that is some crispy fruit leather. Sigh.
And so, like anyone trying to fix something would do, I cut off the burnt edges, and tried to salvage the middle of the fruit leather. And ya know what? The middle part tasted pretty great. It was definitely about as tough as eating actual leather, but it tasted really good. So, I sucked it up, rehydrated it in a tiny bit of water before eating it, and tried again.

For round 2, I decided to see what would happen if I used preserves to make fruit leather. I was getting ready to can 30 lbs of apricots and noticed that I actually had a few more jars left over than I had realized from last year's canning extravaganza. So, I decided to make this round with homemade apricot preserves (which I'll share a recipe for later this week)! I wouldn't recommend using preserves if they are store bought and/or chock full of sugar, but if you have low sugar preserves available it's a pretty solid way to go.
For this round, I began by pouring two half pint jars of preserves onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread them out evenly to about 1/8" thick. I actually did two trays so I used four half pints, or two per tray. You could definitely puree the mix first (and probably should?) but I thought I'd try it out and see what happened.
Then I put the trays in an oven heated to 170°F (again, the lowest mine goes), and let them cook for 5 hours. You can see above what the corners were doing after 5 hours. Convinced I let the first round cook way too long, I decided to pull out one of the trays at this point. It was still a liiiiitle tacky in the middle, but I figured, what the hell. I left the other tray in for another hour (so 6 hours total), and pulled it out after that point. It was still a little tacky in the middle, but was pretty firm.
Once the fruit leather cooled, I rolled the parchment and fruit leather up like a fruit roll up (a task that the first batch was not capable of due to burning...).
Then I trimmed any excess parchment, and cut the fruit roll ups into small pieces using kitchen scissors, and voila! It's like grown-up fruit by the foot.
So how did round two go? Well upon trying the batch pulled out of the oven at 5 hours, I gotta say, it was real tasty, but definitely a bit undercooked. It had almost a gummy candy texture, and was a little bet wet in certain spots. That batch went into the refrigerator for safe keeping, but will definitely be gobbled up.
The batch pulled out at 6 hours though, was pretty awesome. It has a nice chewy texture, was cooked through, but not burnt or too tough. Definitely a winner, and using the preserves was a success! And golly, isn't is pretty?

Moral of the story: make fruit leather! It's awesome! You just might need to make a couple batches to figure out the perfect cooking time.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my fruit leather experiments! Have you ever made fruit leather? Do you have any great tips?

Til next time!

-Becca

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18 comments:

  1. These look so yummy! I simply HAVE to try this! I am pinning this right now. xx. McKenna Lou
    www.lynnandlou.com

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    1. Thank you so much, McKenna Lou! It's so fun to do since you can switch up the flavors and add as much or as little sugar as you like!

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  2. yummm it looks like healthy fruit rollups! who knew it'd be that easy?!

    xo marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

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    1. Totally! The cooking time was the hardest part and the rest practically took care of itself!

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  3. I'm like baffled that you're talented enough to make fruit leather from scratch! I won't even try it cuz I know all sorts of disasters would happen haha. It looks SO good though! And now I want fresh raspberries. My parents grow them in their garden every summer...yum!
    Jessi
    http://haircutandgeneralattitude.blogspot.com

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    1. Aw shucks, thanks Jessi! It's not too tough apart from getting the right cooking time, so you should give it a shot! I'm so jealous that your parents have a raspberry patch in their backyard. That sounds delicious!

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  4. I've never heard of fruit leather, this is pretty cool!

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    1. Thanks Juni, it's pretty tasty stuff!

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  5. I had no idea fruit leather would be this simple. Totally makes sense though, and it's one of my favorite healthy snacks. I might have to try some of these and feed it to my little one..he'll be the judge if I can make fruit leather as good as yours.

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    1. I was surprised myself! I hope you like making it and hope your little one heartily approves (I bet he'll love it!).

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  6. yum!! will be making these this weekend. :-)

    ~e~ @helloscarlettblog.com

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    1. Oh good! I hope it turns out great!

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  7. I am definitely going to give this a try!!! I can't wait!!

    <3 dani
    www.shopdisowned.com
    http://blog.shopdisowned.com

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  8. Preserves? So simple! Can't wait to try this out...thank you!

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    1. Of course! I was really glad it worked out so well. Now I have a go-to recipe for any preserves left over at the end of their shelf life!

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  9. I really want to try this, but our oven is SO temperamental I'm afraid it would just turn out burnt and terrible. Maybe when we have a good, dependable oven, I'll try. I LOVE fruit leather, and also anything homemade!
    xo
    Kristina

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    1. Oh no! I've had those ovens before and it can be rough. You could also do it the old fashioned way and leave it outside in a sunny spot for a few days with a screen over it (ya know, to keep out the bugs...).

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