Fruit Leather 101

Fruitleather101

We just couldn’t begin The Lunchbox Season without an experiment in the kitchen!

Welcome to FRUIT LEATHER 101!

I try to put something homemade into our school lunches each week. Over the long weekend, I looked into the possibility of making oven-dried “fruit leather,” that is, the natural, low sugar, corn-syrup-free version of the prepackaged “roll-up” or “fruit by the …meter” you find at the grocery store. After all, these pre-packaged goods are just knock-offs of the hippy “leathers” we used to find in “health food stores” when we were kids, aren’t they?

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INGREDIENTS

4 cups skinned, sliced fruit and/or berries and/or applesauce
1/3 cup honey
Juice of 1 lemon
Baking Spray
Water

EQUIPMENT

Parchment Paper
9×13 Rimmed Cookie Sheet or Jelly Roll Pan
Medium Saucepan
Spatula
Immersion Blender, Traditional Blender, or Food Processor
Pastry Brush
Knife, Pizza Cutter or Cookie Cutters

PREP TIME

20 minutes food preparation
10 minutes attending
6-12 hours unattended baking

MAKES

12 1.5 x 6.5in leathers

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INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Farenheit. If your oven only sets to a higher temperature (170-200), you can leave the oven cracked open during the cooking process.

Simmer the fruit,* lemon juice and honey in a pot for about 5-10 minutes (for berries), 15+ minutes if you are using firm fruits like apples, bringing the fruit to a soft enough state in which it can be pulverized.

*If you’re using a fruit with seeds/crunchy bits that you don’t want in your leather, heat these ingredients first and pass them through a sieve before adding the rest of the fruit, lemon juice and honey

Using your immersion blender or another kitchen gadget, pulverize the mixture.

Place parchment paper over your rimmed baking sheet (including the raised edges — you’ll have to do some folding) and spray with baking spray.

Pour your pulverized fruit mixture into the pan until you have about 1/8-1/4 inch even throughout.

Place your tray into the oven for 6-12 hours. (If you must leave the oven door open to lower the temperature, this may take even longer.) After the four-hour point, begin checking hourly for that classic “fruit leather” consistency. After about 5 hours, or when the top of the mixture has become somewhat tacky, invert your leather onto an additional piece of parchment paper, put it back in the pan, and heat with the reverse side up for the duration.

Once you can touch the leather and peel it off of the paper without it ripping or wobbling too much, you know it’s ready. If any of the leather edges get brittle during the dehydration process, you can use a pastry brush to paint them with a bit of water.

Slice your leather into rectangular strips or into the shapes of your choosing and serve. Be sure to wrap and seal these leathers for storage or they will get moldy.

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ASSESSMENT

Ingredients?
I started out with six cups of fruit (3 each sliced strawberries and fresh blueberries) and 1/2 c of honey for my recipe, but I had far too much fluid for my 9×13 cooking sheet. (I used the excess as a fruit sauce for scones! Yum!). 4 cups of fruit and 1/3 c honey will certainly be sufficient.

Equipment?
Most fruit leather recipes I’ve read call for the use of plastic wrap as a pan liner instead of the parchment I call for here. When I made these at home, I did use plastic wrap for the first 5 hours of cooking time. Then, when the top of the leather seemed to be quite firm, I flipped the whole thing over onto a piece or parchment for the duration of the cooking cycle. I will omit the plastic wrap and use only parchment paper next time around, which is why I don’t call for plastic wrap in my instructions, above.

The Process?
It took 10 hours for my fruit leather to become fully dehydrated. The edges, particularly on one side of the pan, were too dry/hard at one point. (This proves that our oven is not level!) Still, I had to keep the leather in the oven so that the rest became dry enough to serve. To return the brittle edges to a softer state or to prevent them from drying out in the oven at all, use a pastry brush to coat the thinner/dry bits or edges with water. You can do this at any stage of the cooking process.

Time?
It doesn’t take long to throw all of these ingredients together and get them in the baking tray. 15-30 minutes, tops. However, the cooking process takes quite a long time, making the oven “unavailable” through at least two of three family meals if completed during the daytime. I will make this overnight next time, brushing the dry edges with water towards the end of the cooking process if need be.

Presentation?
The leathers themselves are glossy, shiny and beautiful. However, I did not find a pretty way to wrap these leathers by the time they came out of the oven (ie past my bedtime!). I placed each leather on a strip of parchment, rolled it up, and wrapped this roll in plastic wrap. I’ll find a prettier alternative next time around.

Taste?
Fantastic! Not too sweet, just berry-licious!

Will We Make These Again?
Yes, most definitely.

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