In the great game of lunchbox snack trading, few items hold as much clout as a a violently pink or — if you’re very lucky — tie-dye fruit roll-up. Though I still have a soft spot for the confection, I would hesitate to include it in my five-a-day count. Luckily, you can get more fruit in your fruit snack by making your own.
I’ve always had a good bit of success with this recipe from the Food Network, which requires:
- 570g chopped fruit
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
The idea is that you can take pretty much any fruit, puree it with sugar, add lemon juice to taste and then boil it down into a thick, fruity goop. This goop is then spread into a thin layer over a sheet of parchment or silicone baking mat, and dehydrated in a 90°C oven until it can be peeled up and sliced (about 3-4 hours).
It’s pretty straightforward process, but there are some nuances I’ve picked over after making several batches:
Not All Fruit is Going to Behave Like You Expect It To
Fruit is not a monolith, and various berries, apples and drupes all have different amounts of water, sugar, and pectin. While the above mixture of dragonfruit and peach had a delightful flavour, it resulted in a very thin mixture that required much more simmering than other fruity configurations.
No cooking required.
Conversely, the blueberry-fig-balsamic situation thickened into a gel after just half an hour of sitting on the countertop. (Yes, you read that correctly: In a stroke of brilliance, I swapped out lemon juice for balsamic vinegar, and my life was forever changed.) The strawberry-raspberry mixture, however — one pint of each berry — was the platonic ideal in terms of cooking time and texture.
Tie-Dye is Challenging
If you want to go the multiple-tone route, realise that you can’t just start throwing different flavours together and expect it all dehydrate at the same rate. As you can see from the above photo, I attempted to combine all three of my flavours into one colourful strip, but differences in viscosity resulted in an uneven, kind of lumpy roll-up, with some of the dragonfruit-peach segments crisping up just a touch. (It still tasted very good though.)
Enlist Other Members of Your Pantry
Just because we’re making fruit snacks, it doesn’t mean we have to stick to fruit and fruit alone. As I mentioned earlier, balsamic vinegar gave my blueberry-fig roll-up a nice, refined bit of acidity, but almond extract, vanilla, and even black pepper can elevate the once-childhood favourite to something decidedly mature.
Once you’ve figured out your flavours and fruit ratio — start with a 50/50 mixture of two fruits and adjust from there — just add 3/4 cups of sugar, blend it together and simmer it down. Spread it out so it’s thin, but not translucent, then dehydrate for three or more hours, until the top of the fruit leather is just barely tacky to the touch.
Let it cool, peel it off whatever non-stick material you’re using, and cut it into sheets or strips. Roll it the pieces up in parchment, tie it up with a bit of twee twine, and dole out to your favourite school children and adults.