Stop, Drop Everything, and Make DIY Fruit Leather
When I was a kid, I was rarely, if ever, allowed to have snacks like Fruit Roll-Ups or Fruit By the Foot. Instead, I was handed those much less highly-saturated (in color, and in fat) “fruit strips.” To be honest, I haven’t eaten such a fruit strip since roughly the age of six, but I recall them being thick and gummy, sort of like raspberry-flavored bendy plexiglass—yet I still liked them. Probably because at the time I thought fruit plastic was at least better than being handed a carrot.
Now, of course, I’m way into that healthy-ish stuff. I use sticky dates as a sweetener; I have ground almond meal in my fridge. I like real fruit in stuff, and I prefer to make my own sweets. So instead of buying any type of fruit leather, I’ll DIY.
To make fruit leather, you’ll need some fruit and some leather. Just kidding, I wanted to make sure you were still paying attention. ANYWAY, let’s do this. Get yourself a heap of fruit, any fruit that moves you. It can all be the same type of fruit, or you could blend complementary flavors. I do not—I repeat, do not—recommend using bananas. And if you’d like to use citrus fruits like oranges or grapefruit, they work best, texture-wise, when mixed with other fruit. You can also use frozen fruit, if that’s what you happen to have on hand.
Rinse the fruit and peel, pit, and core it accordingly. Roughly chop the fruit until you reach about 8 cups, then dump it all into a large saucepan along with 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup. If you want to work only with fruit, you could toss in 3 pitted deglet noor dates instead to sweeten the fruit leather. If you’d like to make a fruit leather more complex in flavor, add ½ teaspoon of spices like ground ginger, cinnamon, or allspice, or a combination of them all.
Stir the mixture together and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the fruit is very soft (stone fruit may take 5-10 minutes longer, while berries will get mushy pretty quickly). Pull the mixture off the heat and let it cool slightly.
Transfer the fruit to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with silicone kitchen mats or parchment paper and preheat the oven to 140ºF, using the convection setting if your oven has that ability.
Pour the blended fruit mixture onto the baking sheets, making a layer no thicker than ¼-inch. It’s OK if you can’t fill both trays completely, but it’s better than making the leather too thick.
Place the tray in the oven and let it dry out overnight, or for 8-12 hours.
When the leather has a smooth and firm surface to the touch, it’s finished. Slice it into strips and devour, because it’s been a minute since you started this project, and you’re probably really hungry.