Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fruit by the (almost) Foot

As a kid I was a huge fan of fruit gummies like Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit Gushers (though I very rarely received them at home). Now, that I’m an adult (sorta) I have had a few cravings for them.

If you take a look at a box of strawberry flavored Fruit By the Foot by Betty Crocker you might see these ingredients:

From the name you would assume there’d be a lot of fruit in it but actually you find it’s just sugar and preservatives. It’s number four on a list of 9 Kid Foods to Avoid created by Time.

Here is a recipe for fruit leather from Out of the Box Food. Tastes delicious, not too difficult to make, and you can adjust the amount of sweetener, the flavor, and the size to suit your fancy. I am seriously in love with homemade stuff!


I got mixed berries because… berries. Other fruit combinations can be found at the end of this post. I used agave nectar because it doesn't add much flavor but honey or maple syrup can be used as well (or none of the above).


Start by cutting the two sheets of parchment paper to fit the cookie sheets. Rub some butter on the paper so the rolls will peel off easily and set them aside. I'm not sure how necessary the greasing step is but I am afraid to test these without it.


Add all ingredients to the blender (not the butter, like I said it’s for greasing).


Then blend the heck outta those fruits!


At this point you could strain the puree to remove the seeds (there are soooo many seeds). I didn't because I like to keep things simple and don't like washing dishes... These are life-changing decisions, my friends. Divide the puree evenly between the two cookie sheets and spread thin with a rubber spatula.


This is my third time making these and I elected to use the sun to dry them in order to save energy. I was worried about bugs and stuff but then I decided to not worry about bugs and stuff. If you do worry about bugs, heat the oven to 150 °F (or as low as yours goes) and place the two cookie sheets in the oven as it is heating up. If your oven has a convection setting this would be an excellent occasion to use it. If you're lucky enough to have one this recipe is perfect for a dehydrator. My oven only goes to 170 °F so the first time I made these I let the oven heat up all the way gave it five minutes and turned it off. After 20 minutes I’d turn it on again. It was very tedious but it worked. The second time I made these I forgot to alternate heating times and the rolls got super crispy around the edges, and pretty much all over, which made me angry.

When the rolls aren’t wet any longer take them out of the oven (or bring them inside). Wait for them to cool, which doesn’t take long, and cut into whatever size and shape you want. I leave the parchment paper on the rolls as I roll them up so it’s on the outside (like a real fruit by the foot). Store in an airtight container. As far as I can tell they last forever if you don’t eat them all at once.

Somewhat of a high maintenance recipe since you really have to be around the whole time they are drying (unless you use the sun and are not worried about bugs or wind, then you can just leave them out all day). One idea is to make these and refrigerate the puree until just after dinner. Turn the oven on until bedtime and turn it off when you go to sleep.

MORE FRUIT COMBINATION IDEAS:
Yellow: 1 fresh mango, 7 oz dried apricots, the juice of one orange
Purple:  20 oz frozen mixed berries and 1 fresh banana
Green: Kiwi, mango and mint leaves
Blue: Blueberries and grape juice
Red: Strawberries and banana

Spices to try: Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mace, mint, basil, extracts, citrus juices and peels, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Use sparingly, start with 1/8 teaspoon for each 2 cups of pureĆ©.



MAKES: 12, 2” x 14” rolls
TIME: Preparation – 10 minutes, Drying – 5 to 7 hours with convection oven; 8 to 10 hours with standard oven; more if drying by sun. Also depends on thickness of puree.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 20 oz. frozen fruit
  • ¼ cup agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup (can use less or omit completely)
  • Butter for greasing
DIRECTIONS:

Cut parchment paper to fit on two cookie sheets with raised edges. Grease parchment paper with butter. Defrost berries and add to blender with sweetener. Blend until smooth. Divide puree between cookie sheets, spread thin with a spatula. Heat oven to 150 °F (my oven only goes down to 170 °F so I watch them carefully so they don’t burn). Another option is to leave rolls out in the sun to dry. Or better yet, use a dehydrator. When fruit is dry remove the cookie sheets from the oven. When cool cut into 2” strips, roll tightly and store in air-tight container.


What flavor combinations have you tried?