I'm always on the look out for fun and new things to do in the kitchen, particularly now if there's a baby-friendly twist involved.
I've seen fruit-chews for babies in the supermarket but they're ridiculously expensive for what they are. It hadn't occurred to me to try and make my own, so I was pretty excited when I friend shared this video recipe for fruit leather on Facebook.
The recipe in the video requires the addition of honey, but since we're holding off on honey until the Troll is at least a year old, I looked for alternative recipes, hoping that it was possible to make it without the addition of any sweetening agent at all.
I found lot of different recipes, all just small variations on each other. Some require you to cook the fruit first, other suggest that you just whack all the fruit in a blender and then put the uncooked puree straight in the oven. Some recipes suggest very low heat (~80C) for 7 hours, others slightly higher (~95C) for 3 to 3.5 hours.
The only common ingredients in all the recipes are the base fruit, a little water and lemon juice. I don't think that any additional sugar is necessary (particularly as I like sour things and I want it to be a healthy snack for the Troll) - most of the recipes suggest just adding sugar to taste.
So far I have made a peach and strawberry and a honeydew and apple variety. The peach and strawberry turned out a amazing and I'll definitely be making it again. With the melon version, I tried the hotter-quicker version but it came out slightly dry. I have another batch in the oven on the lower temperature right now, so we'll see if that turns out any better.
Here's how I made mine, pulling bits and bobs from the recipes I read:
- One of two of your favourite fruits (for example, 400g of strawberries and two red apples is enough for two trays worth, if you spread it about 5mm thick)
- water (~1/8 of the quantity of fruit)
- juice from half a lemon (a little less if you're not a fan of sour treats)
- Pre-heat the oven to 80C.
- Hull/de-seed/de-stem the fruit and chop .
- Simmer in the water on a medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the fruit is soft and pulpy.
- Add the lemon juice.
- Take off the heat and blend right in the pan if you have a hand-mixer (be careful - it's hot!), or transfer to a blender and whizz until smooth.
- Pour into a silicon baking sheet, and tip the tray around to spread the puree (this is much easier than messing about with a palette knife trying to get it smooth).
- Dehydrate in the oven for about 7 hours. The exact time will vary according to your oven, the type of fruit you used and how much water evaporated off during the simmering. You'll know it's done when it's smooth but no longer sticky, but that's easier said than done. It's always better to check often and take it out a little too soon, rather than let it dry out too much (as I did with the first batch of melon) as then it goes a stiff and crackly.
- Once it's cool, peel it off from the silicon tray, cut it into strips, and try to get it into a zip-lock bag and into the fridge before you eat the whole lot.
The Troll is still too young and has too few teeth to chomp on it properly, so I usually give him 1/2 cm-sized chopped up bits, which he absolutely loves. And, as it's basically just fruit, he can have as much as wants (if there's any left over by the time the Dad Tax has been implemented).
*Just had a thought: Given that you have to run your oven for like 7 hours, I wonder if it is actually cheaper than just buying the stuff in the supermarket. Then again, it's as much about the the fun of making your own as it is enjoying the finished snack.