Monday, May 9, 2011

Homemade Fruit Leather

Let's talk about fruit roll-ups for just a minute. Growing up, there was just something special about opening that shiny wrapper, slowly peeling that slightly-sticky fruit leather off, and savoring each bite (as well as those bits that always stuck in my teeth afterward!).

What's not so special is the lack of nutritional benefit to that tasty snack. Nutritionally, the fruit roll-up just doesn't hold a candle to a piece of fruit. Even the newer "Simply Fruit Fruit Roll-ups" list Apple Juice Concentrate as the first ingredient, which, let's be real, is just another way of saying sugar.

So how do you still give your kiddos that experience and flavor, but make it healthier? Make your own!

Here's how: (Click the picture to view a larger image)
The leather bakes at an incredibly low temp. (150°-170°) for around 7-12 hours, depending on how thick your fruit leather is. If your fruit leather becomes brittle at any point, just brush on a thin layer of water to re-hydrate it. I actually did this several times throughout the drying process.

After almost 6 hours, I pulled the fruit leather off and flipped it over. I brushed it with water, placed it back in the oven and it was done after an additional hour.
What I'll do different next time:
  • I used 4 c. of chopped fruit to make two trays of fruit leather. Next time I'll use 6 c. to make the fruit leather a bit thicker. (Or 3 c. for just one baking sheet.)
  • I will not attempt to just flip the fruit leather over and back onto the same mat. It stuck to itself a bit and made it difficult. Next time I'll flip it onto some parchment paper to ease the process.
  • I may dust a little cornstarch on top next time if the bars feel sticky before wrapping them up.
I actually cut the fruit leather into a number of different sizes, but no size was big enough for my girls. They LOVED them. We actually ate almost an entire pan in one night, and I'm pretty sure they would've munched their way through the second pan if I had let them.

If you are able to resist eating all the fruit leather in one sitting and you want to give it that fun roll-up feel, roll it up in wax paper. Here's how:
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Feel good about giving your kids something healthy, fun, and delicious.
Homemade Fruit Leather

Ingredients:
  • 4-6 c. strawberries or other fresh fruit, chopped into small pieces
  • ½ c. water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ c. sugar (optional, depending on the sweetness of your fruit)

Preheat the oven to 150 -170 degrees F.

Place the fruit in a medium saucepan with the water and lemon juice. Simmer on medium heat, mostly covered, until they are very soft and mushy. Stewing the fruit helps it retain its color.

Transfer the fruit pulp mixture to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. If it is a fruit with seeds, a food mill will remove the seeds more easily than a food processor and strainer. Taste the fruit at this point, and add the sugar if it is not sweet enough. Keep in mind that as the fruit leather dries, it will concentrate the natural sugars in the fruit and become sweeter on its own. Add a small amount of water to the mixture if necessary so that it has a pourable consistency.
Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking pad. If using parchment paper, spray the parchment with the cooking spray, then spread the fruit puree onto the parchment with an offset spatula or knife to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. Place it in the oven for 5 -7 hours. If the fruit leather becomes too brittle at any point, simply brush on water with a pastry brush to rehydrate it. Make sure there is air circulating to prevent scorching. Alternatively place it in the sun for 6-8 hours.

Invert the fruit leather onto another baking sheet that has been covered in oiled parchment or a silicon baking pad, and remove the first lining. Place back in the oven or sun for another at least another 1-3 hours, or until the fruit leather is dry.

Cool the sheet trays and cut the fruit leather into desired sizes. Dust with corn starch to prevent sticking (optional), cover in plastic or roll in wax paper and store in a cool place in a sealed container.

For other helpful pics, check out Tasty Kitchen and/or Georgia Pellegrini's blog.

3 comments:

  1. Great Job! I'll definitely try this over the summer. We love to make frsh strawberry jelly and raspberry jam and it looks very similar (with a few extra steps and hrs of course) Does it make the house smell yummy too?

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  2. Thanks Jill! I am hoping to make some jellies/jams this summer with the girls so if you have any recipes, please pass them my way! This did make the house smell amazing, which was a little like torture for the girls having to wait so long. :)

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  3. Great additions to the blog. Can't wait to try the fruit leather. I made it earlier this year and it had good flavor but was too brittle.

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