What does a schoolchild’s packed lunch have in common with a $300-a-head meal at a three-Michelin-star restaurant? These days, both frequently include an edible leather: a puree of fruit (or, in the case of the restaurant, more often of a vegetable, such as tomato or onion) spread thin and dehydrated until it becomes stretchy.
Commercial fruit leathers roll out of factories by the yard, and those served at high-priced restaurants are prepared by expert chefs, so you might think that such a modern creation is beyond the means of the home cook. But it’s actually amazingly quick and easy to make an all-natural fruit leather that is a tasty, healthful and highly portable snack for the lunch box or backpack. My 10-year-old loves the mango chili leather.
Sweet Raspberry Leather
Start to finish: 2 hours
2 c. raspberries
1 T. cooking oil
1/4 c. sugar
0.6 grams (3/16 t.) xanthan gum
Arrange an 11-by-17-inch nonstick silicone mat on a rimmed baking sheet. Heat a food dehydrator to 150° F, or set your oven to its lowest temperature.
Combine all ingredients in a blender, then puree until thoroughly blended, at least 30 seconds. Working quickly, pour the puree onto the mat and use an offset spatula or other long, flat utensil to spread it into an even layer 1/16 inch thick. If the puree sits too long in the blender it may set into a custard-like gel; if that happens, blend it again until it becomes fluid enough that you can spread it easily across the mat.
Place the baking sheet in the dehydrator or oven, and dry until leathery and tacky to the touch. A drying time of 1-1/2 to 2 hours is typical, but the time required can vary considerably depending on the thickness and wetness of the puree layer, the temperature of the chamber, and the humidity of the air. Use the convection setting on your oven if one is available.