Do you know what a fruit leather is? It’s a fruit roll-up that’s actually made of JUST fruit. No corn syrup, no artificial flavorings that pretend to be fruit, no food coloring. Just fruit that’s been pureed to a liquid form and then either cooked or dehydrated until it’s solid to the touch. It stores well at room temperature and you can make any flavor combination you like (or just use up whatever you have on hand).
Now, I did mention you can dehydrate it. This is the method we use. You see, about a year ago, Hubby really wanted to get a food dehydrator. – – -if you’re starting to furrow your brow and wonder what the heck you would want one of those things for, you’re RIGHT where I was when he brought it up! He knew someone who made beef jerky at home and it was delicious, so he wanted to try it too. I thought it was ludicrous…until…he mentioned that I could dry out fruit into fruit chips or dehydrate fruit into fruit leathers. Sold! (Turns out the thing was very very cheap too, a double win!)
I was completely unfamiliar with dehydrators, and I’m going to assume some of you are too, so let me break down the basics really quick. And don’t worry if you don’t have a dehydrator or don’t want to use one, I’m going to tell you how to make the fruit leathers using a regular conventional oven as well. Alright. So. Our dehydrator, AKA The Spaceship, is just as you see above. It’s flimsy light plastic trays that stack up on each other with a red motor-type thing that you drop in the center of the trays. You plug the red thing in, and it’s just like a fan. It puts out minimal heat – a very low temperature, and just circulates the air around inside the trays. One important thing to note for this recipe, you see the two plastic discs in front? Those are tray liners. You will need them for making the fruit leathers (or else your fruit puree is just going to pour right down through the grates of the trays and make a colossal mess….)
You can make any number of flavors of fruit leathers. For the batch today, we had alot of extra raisins on hand so we went with a Cinnamon Raisin base. We also tossed in some bananas and apple sauce too. Here’s what our recipe looked like:
Cinnamon Raisin Fruit Leathers:
3 ripe or overripe bananas
1 1/2 cup of raisins
1 cup apple sauce
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
You can try other combinations – we are a big fan of strawberry-banana around here but you can use ANY fruit you like. Cherry, plum, apricot, peach, blueberry, grape…whatever you want, in any combination you want it. I’ve never had a bad batch yet! Mix and match them and see what you get. Pretend you’re at a smoothy shop and put in whatever sounds good to you.
You want to have roughly 3 cups of puree. You can add applesauce to stretch the flavor, it adds a nice texture and sweetness to the leather.
Picking out what flavor you want to try is the hardest part to this whole thing. Or you can do it like we did and just wake up and decide you wanted to make some fruit leathers and throw whatever you find first in the blender. You’ll need to blend all of your fruits together until you get a nice smooth mix. Some fruits, like strawberries, will still have little seeds that won’t puree and will add a nice bit of crunch to the leather when it’s done. Puree up all your fruit and then put one of those lining trays we discussed onto your dehydrator shelf. MAKE SURE YOU SPRAY THE LINER WITH SOME PAM SPRAY!! It is sooo much easier to get the dried leather off of the liner if you remember to spray it first! Trust me on this one!
The amount of time the puree will need to dehydrate can vary widely depending on what kind of fruit you used in your mix. A wetter mix is actually easier than a ‘thicker’ mix. I would say 8-10 hours is about average, but this is definitely a case where you need to get in there and check it every hour or so to see how it’s progressing. My Cinnamon Raisin mix ended up taking around 12 hours yesterday. Just keep checking it. You don’t want it to be wet at all, or even tacky to the touch. It should feel like a store-bought fruit roll up.
When it’s done dehydrating and is now a solid (gummy) ring of deliciousness, simply peel it off of your (nicely Pam sprayed) liner and put it on a cutting board for slicing up. You can do it nice and simple like we do, and just take a pizza cutter to it, or you can place a sheet of parchment paper under it and get a sharp knife and slice it (along with the parchment paper) into pretty strips so you can roll it up and have it look just like the name brand stuff. We store ours in a sealed container in the pantry and it can last for a few weeks, though ours is always eaten within a few days.
**Now – for the oven method**
If you don’t have, or don’t want to use, a dehydrator, it’s just as easy.
Puree up the fruit, just like I mentioned above. Line some baking sheets with parchment paper – Note: parchment paper, NOT wax paper.
Pour your puree on the lined baking sheets and smooth it out so it’s evenly spread.
Then bake at 200 degrees for about 2 hours. Again, you’ll need to check this often to see how it’s coming along. Your fruit leather will over-dry much quicker in the oven than the dehydrator, so make sure to keep an eye on it.
That’s it! I hope you all like it!