Do you remember those brightly coloured fruit roll-ups that were so popular when we were kids? I sure do because I was dying for my mom to buy them! She always refused due to all the sugar, artificial colours, and lack of real fruit they contained. It made me mad at the time but now as a parent myself I’m pretty impressed with her forward thinking.
These days, most of us are quite aware of the ingredients in snacks made for kids and are doing our best to find the healthiest options (hopefully ones our kids will actually eat!) Generally speaking, sticky, chewy, fruit leather type snacks can be one of the worst culprits when it comes to empty, sugary snacking because there tends to be very little real fruit in most of what is on offer at the supermarket. Fruit concentrate and real fruit are two very different things and if you look closely at the ingredients, most of these snacks are made of fruit concentrate rather than fruit or fruit puree. Some even contain corn syrup! Yuck! Hopefully one day Love Child Organics will put out a better, more clean version of a fruit leather snack, but until that time, I vote for making it at home.
Luckily it’s easy to make your own fruit leather at home, and keep the ingredients super clean. This recipe contains only two ingredients, cherries and apples, and no added sweetener whatsoever so it’s the perfect choice for parents who are trying to cut back on the added sugars their children eat, but want to offer a fun, sweet treat now and then. This fruit leather is naturally sweet and really is delicious so trust me when I say your kids will love it and not miss the added sugar one bit.
Now getting the temperature and cooking time right is notoriously difficult with fruit leather. While I’ve been developing recipes for my cookbook, I’ve practiced fruit leather A LOT (in excess of 10 times I think!) and have finally come up with a formula that seems pretty fool-proof. The key is to use a silicone baking mat and keep the oven temperature low. No matter how many times I tried on parchment paper, I just couldn’t get the fruit leather to dry evenly and not burn around the edges. A mat is about $20 but is so worth it, not only for fruit leather but for your other baking too. Plus it means less waste because you won’t be using parchment paper. You can of course use a dehydrator to make fruit leather, but if you’re dehydratorless like me, and will be using an oven, this recipe will teach you exactly what to do.
Fruit leather is perfect for using up bruised or over-ripe fruit, so if you have a few apples laying around that are bit past their day and cherries that are getting a bit soft, this recipe will ensure they don’t go to waste.
Summer Cherry and Apple Fruit Leather
Makes: 6-8 strips
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes on the stove, then 6-7 hours in the oven
5 small peeled and chopped sweet apples like Galas
1 cup pitted ripe cherries
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and line a rimmed 12 x 18 baking sheet with the silicone mat.
Put the apples, cherries and 1/4 cup of water into a pot and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are soft. I find that putting the lid on the pot between stirring helps to soften the apples more quickly and keeps the fruit from drying out. Put the fruit into a blender and puree until smooth then pour out onto the baking tray.
Use a spatula to smooth the fruit puree out evenly over the tray almost to the edges of the mat. It should be just under a quarter inch thick. Use your spatula to push the sides in a little, all the way around, so that the edges aren’t too thin. Try to even out any thin areas with your spatula or wiggle the whole tray to help make sure the puree is evenly distributed.
Bake in the center rack in the oven for 6-7 hours. When done, the fruit leather will be dry to the touch. You may notice you still have a couple of small, slightly sticky areas and that is just fine. While the fruit leather is drying in the oven, I usually go about my day, then start checking the fruit leather at the 6 hour mark. Because all fruit has different water and sugar content, every time you make this you will find a slight variation in the cooking time, but 6-7 hours should be about right.
Allow to cool on the mat, then cut into strips and keep in a sealed container. If you’ve found that you’ve left the fruit leather in a bit long, and it is a bit too crispy, you can brush it lightly with water to soften it, or you can just leave it in a sealed container for a day or so to soften up. This fruit leather gets better with time and lasts for about a month. Of course, once your kids try it, it will never, ever last that long!
Leah is the founder of Love Child Organics and mom to 6 year old Poppy and 4 year old Cam. Leah’s philosophy when cooking for her family is the same as her philosophy when creating innovative products for Love Child Organics. Include only nutrient-rich real food, leave out unnecessary “empty” ingredients, and make sure it tastes delicious! Her upcoming Love Child Organics’ cookbook, It All Begins With Food, will be released by Appetite by Random House in the spring of 2017.