While serving dozens of cookie plates at the restaurant I would occasionally sneak in a taste for myself. After the Chocolate Chip Cookie, the little fruit jellies were my favorite item on the plate.
“This is the best fruit roll-up I’ve ever had” was my reaction after the first taste of a Pate de Fruit. Which was in fact the best compliment I could have given these little jewels.
Finding a fruit roll-up in my brown paper lunch bag as a child was a rarity. At my cousin’s house, however, my aunt kept the cupboards filled with such childhood favorites as Handi-Snacks – complete with the little red spatula to aid in the spreading of the neon orange “cheese”, Snack Packs, individually packaged chip bags (not surprisingly the Doritos were always the first to go) and of course Fruit-roll ups in every flavor, tongue changing color and pull-and-peel variety. I loved staying with my cousin as we were very close but it was the lunches my aunt packed us for school that kept me up at night, sleepless with excitement. When lunch time finally arrived I would save the best for the last – the fruit roll-up.
I’m older now and my palette has “matured” since those days but I still can’t resist some of the flavors that take me back to my overly processed childhood such as this recipe for Apple Pate de Fruits.
From start to finish this recipe is an endeavor not for those in a rush. Your effort is rewarded with a candy intensely “apple”. Somehow in the process these little jellies manage to encapsulate all the is good with apples – soft sweetness, airy floral flavor and tartness to perfect the balance – in one bite.
Without the crunchy coat of sugar these jellies are fast friends with a nice aged cheddar.
The apple shaped beauties you see here were created with the assistance of little cookie cutters and will make a delightful snack during another day of mushroom foraging tomorrow.
With candies like this to keep me company I guess being a grown-up isn’t as bad as I once imagined it would be.
Apple Pate de Fruit
adapted from Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food
This recipe can be used for jelly, apple paste or pate de fruit – depending on how long you cook the mixture. Continually check the consistency using a plate that is thoroughly chilled in the freezer.
8 medium apples (about 3 pounds) washed, quartered and cored – I used 4 Honeycrisp and 4 Granny Smith
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup + 1 tbl.)
Lightly coat an 8×8 baking dish with flavorless oil or pan spray. Line the bottom with parchment then lightly cover the parchment in oil.
In a large pot combine the apples and 1 cup water. Cover and cook over medium until the apples are soft. The amount of time this takes depends on what type of apples you use. The Granny Smiths were done around 20 minutes but I continued to cook for a total of 30-40 minutes until the Honeycrisps were soft and losing their skin.
Press the mixture through a fine sieve to end up with a smooth, peel-free puree.
Return the puree to the pot and add the salt, sugar and lemon juice. This mixture will now simmer for at least an hour. Stir often and watch for changes in thickness, scrape the bottom of the pan often as it can easily scorch with all that sugar. You may want to wear an oven mit while stirring as the mixture spatters and – speaking from experience – to say it’s hot is an understatement.
In the original recipe it said the mixture is done when it holds a mounded shape. After being on the burner for well over an hour mine still never mounded. So instead I transferred it to the prepared baking dish then placed it in an oven set at 150* for one hour. I let it set to cool for a few hours the bottom was still softer then I liked so I inverted it, placed it back in the pan and dried it in the oven again for an hour.
I wanted firm jellies – if you are using this as apple paste you won’t have to dry it for as long. Also you can quickly test the consistency by keeping a plate in the freezer then place a small amount of the jelly on the plate to set. Once cool check the consistency.
After all the cooking and drying I let it sit on the counter overnight. In the morning I removed the jellies from the pan and was easily able to slice them with a sharp knife.
You can cut them and roll them in granulated sugar or get crazy with cookie cutters. These little sweets served with an aged cheddar are out of this world.