What is it about ringing in a new year that makes everything seem so fresh, possible and…well, new? I mean, it’s not like the world just magically changed in the span of 24 short hours, at least not my world. All of the problems and issues in my life that existed on December 31 were still lurking there on January 1. Yet, when I woke up that morning, I felt different – lighter and “newer”. As I showered, it literally felt as though pounds of apathy and malaise were melting off of me I had shed the skin of worry and doubt, emerging fresh, hopeful and motivated for what 2010 has in store for me.
It’s not that I’d been feeling particularly BAD. I just hadn’t been feeling particularly GOOD. And, when I don’t feel good, I just can’t be very creative. I find it hard enough just to muddle through the things I absolutely must do, let alone write scintillating blog posts and take droolworthy photographs. So, I owe you a few and payback starts now!
When I was in San Francisco last September for BlogHer Food, I spent some time at the Ferry Building Marketplace, where I loaded up on delectable treats from Recchiuti Confections. One of my very favorites were their amazing pate de fruits, or French fruit jellies. Remember those Chuckles candies you ate as a kid? Well, these are not even in the same universe! Pate de fruits are soft, smooth, jammy and intensely fruity little confections that are so incredibly delicious they almost defy description. By the time I ate my way through two 1-pound boxes of those little gems, I was hopelessly addicted and knew I had to learn to make them myself to support my habit!
Back home, I began my “pate de fruits” project. Thanks to Google, I found many recipes to choose from, including some by other bloggers like Helen, Jenni and Ashley, that I admire and trust. I decided to go with Jenni’s recipe because she had a whole pastry chef “cheat sheet” with the exact pectin to fruit formulas for pate de fruits in every possible flavor combination, and she was sharing!
Jenni recommends making pate de fruits using pure fruit purees from the French company, Les vergers Boiron. Their purees come frozen in 1000 gram (2.2 pounds) packages. I ordered several different flavors from Canelle Specialty Foods, and soon had enough fruit purees to open my own little pate de fruits shop. Instead, I had the bright idea to share the wealth and make pate de fruits to give as Christmas gifts. You certainly can make your own fruit purees out of fresh or frozen fruit if you don’t want to go to the trouble or expense of ordering the Boiron. There are lots of good recipes out there that explain how to do it, like Helen’s for Strawberry-Rhubarb Pate de Fruits, or Ashley’s apple version.
Never having done this before, and in light of my bad luck with cooking sugar, I was a little nervous. But, I followed Jenni’s instructions scrupulously and was rewarded with wild strawberry and white peach pate de fruits that were even more heavenly than Recchiuti’s!
These pate de fruits contain only fruit, sugar, lemon juice and a little corn syrup. None of the other recipes I found used corn syrup, but I left it in because with the cost of those Boiron purees, I didn’t want mess with the recipe and tempt fate!
The process for making these really isn’t hard at all. It just takes a little time, attention and a good candy thermometer. If you start with fruit that is already pureed, you’re ahead of the game. If not, a quick whizz in the blender or food processor should get you up to speed. Then, you cook the fruit and sugar together and stir…and stir…and stir…
Eventually, your bubbling, angry, molten mass of fruit lava becomes transformed. From there, all you have to do is enjoy it!
I ordered some green and pink boxes for my edible Christmas gifts from a company called Bake it Pretty. They have the cutest stuff! You can order all kinds of bags, boxes and decorating supplies from them at reasonable prices. Plus, you don’t have to buy in bulk. I also had matching labels made with SGCC’s logo to stick on the boxes. I tied each little parcel up with chocolate brown tulle ribbon as well. They looked so pretty! I wish I had taken a photo of them all dolled up and ready to go, but hey, it was Christmas time and I was a little frazzled. At least I managed to get a shot a box and label. Don’t judge me.
Well, I’m happy to report that my pate de fruits as well as my other edible gifts were a big hit with my family and friends this year. But, I have to tell you – it was a $#%load of work! Next year, I think I’ll just pick one or two things to make and not FOUR (three of which involved boiling sugar)!!! What was I thinking?
I want to thank Jenni for graciously sharing her recipe and formulas with me, and for answering all my silly questions without telling me to take a hike! Now that I’m a pate de fruit pro, I plan on making them often! If you’ve never made pate de fruits before, I urge you to try it. They are utterly divine and so much better than anything you can buy in a store. Trust me, you will become totally infatuated. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Pate de Fruits (from Pastry Methods and Techniques)
For the strawberry:
1000 grams strawberry puree (If you use Boiron, it is one 2.2 pound container)
1100 grams sugar
200 grams corn syrup
15 grams lemon juice
24 grams powdered pectin (I used Sure Jell brand)
For the white peach:
1000 grams white peach puree
900 grams sugar
200 grams corn syrup
12 grams lemon juice
25 grams powdered pectin
1. Mix about 100 grams of sugar with the pectin. Whisk them together really well. This helps keep your pate de fruits from having pectin globs in it. Set aside.
2. In a large, tall-sided pot, heat the fruit puree to 120 degrees. F. Whisk and whisk, and add the pectin/sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and let boil one minute.
3. Add the corn syrup and the rest of the sugar. Stirring constantly, cook to 223 degrees, F. This will take a any where from 30 minutes to an hour. Please be careful while doing this. The mixture will bubble up and spit at you like crazy! Wear heavy duty oven mitts. Once the mixture reaches the correct temperature, stir in the lemon juice. Cook one minute more and then remove from the heat.
4. Very carefully pour the fruit mixture into a half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Let it set up at room temperature until cool and sliceable. This will take a few hours. Once firm, slice them into small squares or cut into shapes with tiny cookie cutters. Roll them in granulated sugar and enjoy!