Happy Thursday, all.
Yesterday, I found myself very busy using up all the wonderful summer fruit I have hanging around. Fruit that was in desperate need of a purpose, and soon.
Usually, when faced with an excess of fresh fruit I do two things: make purée to freeze and save for future baking and candy making or I make fruit leather.
Fruit leather is so simple to make and a great way to take advantage of the summer markets that are flooded with inexpensive fresh fruit. Kids love the stuff too... who will be going back to school soon, right? They might need a reasonably healthy treat in their lunchbox. Something better than the usual fare I supply on this site.
While fruit leather is generally made in a dehydrator, you can make it at home in your oven too. All you need is plenty of time, a blender or food processor, an oven that can hold a temperature more or less around 150°F, and since most ovens don't have a mark on their dial for that, an oven thermometer too.
That's all you need to turn all this into this...
Into something like this.
If you're eying up that old bread trench full of fruit and going "surplus?" Okay, I went a little beyond using up my extra fruit. I got so caught up in the fun of making fruit leather that I went out and filled two shopping totes with even more fruit.
It was a momentary loss of control. I'll admit that. I wanted to fruit leather everything I could find at the market, I was so seduced by the idea of fruit rolls with new and inventive flavors.
I had so many batches to tend to yesterday that I ended up staying up until 2 am. So word to the wise, if you're going to make fruit leather, don't start any batches at 6pm on a weeknight.
Baked Fruit Leather
Yields a roughly 13" x 18" sheet of leather
fruits of your choosing, enough to make 2 cups of puree after cooking (this may require 3-5 cups of uncooked fruit). (Using up to a cup of apple or pear puree will help keep your leather tender when working with less than ideal fruits)
sugar to taste (usually a scant teaspoon to 1/4 cup)
flavorless oil (corn, soy, grapeseed or canola) for greasing
You'll also need:
plastic cling wrap
An hour before starting, pre-heat your oven to 150°F. Check your oven thermometer occasionally to make sure it maintains that temperature without spiking into higher temperature ranges (over 170°F wouldn't be good).
To prepare your fruit, wash and remove any inedible peels/bits and chop into small pieces. Place the fruit into a medium pot with a splash of water. Set over medium heat and cover. Stir occasionally until the fruit has released it's juices and become soft and mushy. If your fruit releases a lot of juice while cooking and the mixture is thin, uncover the pot and allow to simmer on the stove top until some of the liquid has evaporated. You want the mixture to be sort of similar to chunky apple sauce, in terms of thickness.
Meanwhile, prepare your pan by loosely covering it with a sheet (or sheets) of cling wrap. Yes, you're going to bake on plastic wrap. No, it won't melt. If your plastic cling wrap can withstand microwave temperatures without melting or catching fire, it can handle the oven too. Provided it doesn't get too hot (remember my pre-heating advice?). The plastic will shrink a bit in the heat, so give it some extra allowance to do so. Don't stretch it tight on the pan like a drum. Lightly brush the plastic with oil.
Pour the soft cooked fruit into a blender or food processor and purée thoroughly. Add sugar to taste, remembering that the flavor will concentrate in the oven. You can also brighten the fruit flavor with a little lemon juice, a touch of vanilla, or add spices at this point. Apple cinnamon leather anyone?
Pour the purée onto your prepared pan. Carefully spread the mixture with an offset spatula to evenly coat the pan. You want the thickness as uniform as possible.
Place the pan in your oven and allow to bake for 4-8 hours (it's faster if your oven has a fan), checking often towards the end to ensure you don't turn it into a fruit crisp. Once you can firmly touch the fruit without it sticking and leaving pulp on your fingertip, it is done. Pull it out of the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes.
If you find that you've over-baked the leather a little, or the edges have become brittle. Grab a spray bottle and spritz the leather lightly with a little fresh water and allow it to stand and rehydrate. Lack a spray bottle? Then blot the area with slightly damp paper towel.
For quick storage, roll up the whole sheet of leather, using the cling wrap you baked it on. Or peel off the plastic and cut the fruit into single serving strips. You can roll up the fruit with a little cling wrap or use slips of waxed paper.
Store in a air tight container in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks.