Flash from the past: Fruit Roll-Ups!
These were a rare treat in my childhood, mostly coming from friends’ lunchboxes, but boy-oh-boy, were they good. I distinctly remember strawberry being a favorite. Over the years, the original healthy fruit leather transformed in food labs and on grocery shelves until it reached a neon blue (raspberry?) flavor called Fruit-by-the-Foot which my junk food-addicted cousin introduced me to. Yikes!
I usually prefer my fruit plain; it pretty much grows perfect. There are times, however, when it’s nice to shake things up and make a healthy snack feel more snacky, than healthy. Enter fruit leather. It’s portable, yummy and fun. I always wanted to try making it, but I don’t own a food dehydrator, so I thought I couldn’t. Then I read this recipe, and realized I could make my own. I tweaked the original recipe, making it tropical, but this is really more about the method than the actual recipe, so you can and should experiment with whatever fruit you have available.
Mango Fruit Leather
3-4 ripe mangoes*
1/2 t coconut oil
1. Preheat oven to 185°. Puree mangoes in a food processor or blender for a few minutes, until absolutely smooth. Taste. You can add a bit of sugar or lemon juice if your mangoes aren’t perfectly ripe. Mine were sublime as is. You need 2 cups of puree.
2. Use a pastry brush and grease a baking sheet with coconut oil. This is an essential step to prevent sticking, so be thorough.
3. Smooth puree over baking sheet making it as even as possible. Bake for 4-5 hours. Check on the leather every so often. If the edges start to crisp, you can run a pastry brush with water over them so they can finish cooking with the center. An alternative is to cut the done part off and continue cooking the rest.
4. Once leather feels solid and only slightly tacky, remove it from oven. Cook and remove from pan. You can cut it with a knife, a pizza cutter or kitchen shears. Wrap in plastic wrap and enjoy for a week or two (unless you start eating it, then it’ll be gone in a snap). Enjoy!
* Use whatever fruit is available to you, just make sure you have 2 c of puree.
The Bottom Line
This basically tastes like candy and is as easy as pie to make. It’s definitely a good laundry day activity because it bakes for so long. You want to make sure you can let it cook longer if your oven requires extra time. Personally, I adore the mango flavor, but a part of me hankers for the strawberries of my youth. I’ll have to wait until strawberry season in Florida to try that recipe. Even if you have to add a little sugar to a tart berry, it’s so much better than the chemicals, corn syrup and dyes added to the manufactured brands.
As far as cost is concerned, these were free for me, but very pricey for a New Yorker. Living in Miami means plentiful mangoes from our and our neighbors’ trees. I think you really have to be seasonal and local for this to be a cost-effective recipe. Still, I appreciated having a fun snack for my kiddos that didn’t cost a few bucks. Obviously the environemental cost of making our own is much better. Shipping and packaging are all but eliminated.
I guess my favorite part of this recipe is my pride in making it. People’s eyes widen in admiration when I offer them a taste, because let’s face it:
Cooking is cool!