January 6, 2013

Patterned Fruit Leather

I can't help but sneak a fruit leather from my boys every now and then. They are chewy, sweet and delicious. Since the organic version I buy only come five to a box (and are expensive) I find it hard to buy them on a consistent basis. So, through much trial and error, I learned to make them in my oven and have fun doing it!

The process is very simple - puree fruit, spread thin on a silicone mat and dehydrate. You can do these steps in many different ways but this is my take on it.

You will need the following:
- two sheet pans
- two silpats or silicone mats
- three cups unsweetened applesauce
- four to five fruit purées
- four to five squeeze bottles
- juice of one lemon
- honey
- parchment paper
- oven or food dehydrator of some kind
- clean kitchen scissors

These rolls make great gifts and great snacks for home or at a picnic. They travel very well so keep a few in your purse/bag for those unexpected snack cravings!!

Make Fruit Purees
Use as many different fruits as colors you want in your patterned fruit leather keeping in mind that the base of the leather is applesauce.

I used: strawberries, kiwi, peaches, blueberries, and wild black raspberries (that we picked as a family while hiking!). Once the blueberry and black raspberries were cooked down the color was so similar I couldn't tell the difference.

There are two basic ways to make fruit purée. You can cook it down and then blend it or you can just blend it without cooking first. Either way works fine. It's really personal preference.

Fruit Puree
1 c. Fresh or frozen fruit
1 1/2 t. Honey
1 t. Fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan over medium heat add fruit and honey and cook approximately five minutes stirring occasionally. One fruit is soft and has released some juices remove from heat. Using an immersion blender blend fruit to a smooth consistency. Add lemon juice and stir. Pour purée into a squeeze bottle and set aside until ready to use. Repeat with remaining fruits.

**The honey is not to add sweetness so do not substitute sugar. It is to make the leather more pliable once it has finished dehydrating.

**Strain any fruit purée that has unwanted seeds with a sieve. If the fruit is cooked and blended first straining seeds is very simple and quick. It takes much longer If you don't take these steps first.

Prepare Pans and Decorate
Turn two sheet pans upside down and place a silpat on each. Turning the pans upside down will make smoothing the applesauce much easier.

Using a spreading knife or spatula smooth 1 1/2 c. applesauce on each silpat to approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Using prepared purées squeeze out any pattern you want! This is a great activity for kids!

Dehydrate Fruit
The traditional and easiest way to make fruit leather is in a dehydrator, however, I do not own one, so.......this is the 'in the oven' method.

Once your purée is ready set your oven to the lowest setting. I used a corded meat thermometer to keep track of the oven temp. My oven has a 'warm' setting with the next setting being 200 degrees F. When I set my oven on 'warm' my thermometer read 230 degrees F so I couldn't trust my settings!!!

Most instructions for oven dehydrating will say to keep the temp around 140 degrees F but I have to keep mine at 160 to get the fruit to dry out properly. Every oven is different so you will have to struggle a bit to get it just right if you are trying this in your oven too.

I did not keep the oven door open and it worked fine. Many instructions call for keeping the door cracked open. Since it is summer you may also want to avoid 100 degree temps spilling out into your kitchen!!!

Once your fruit can easily peel from the silpat and is no longer sticky to the touch it is done! This took me approximately 12 hours.

Cut into strips using kitchen scissors and roll in strips of parchment paper. Tie with a piece of butcher string if desired. Store in an airtight container.

Eat your creations with a smile. They are delicious!