Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fun with fruit: Pate de Fruit

Remember my spring kitchen to-do list? OK, maybe not, but I do and I'm working my way down it. Anchovy-stuffed fried olives went pretty smoothly—I picked that one first suspecting it would be the easiest. I didn't expect Pate de Fruit to go as smoothly, and it didn't. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As I often do when taking on a new kitchen project, I spend ages on the internet looking at and comparing different recipes. Pate de Fruit recipes are more or less the same: fruit, sugar, and pectin, with lots of cooking and stirring, but some include other ingredients like tartaric acid, glucose, and one even butter. After much research and an email consul twith blogger pal Laura who recently made this treat, I went with a recipe from Helen at Tartlette.

In California, the summer fruits are on their way in. Strawberries are best right now, and my produce market had some nice small sweet organic ones. Helen's recipe includes rhubarb as well, but I stuck with just strawberries, substituting strawberries for the rhubarb that I omitted.

Helen's recipe gives the berry amounts in ounces and grams. I went with grams since the fruit is measured before pureeing. And it was nice to find another use for the cute little scale I bought for making macarons (coming up on the to-do list).

I followed instructions for cooking carefully. Any recipe that involves a candy thermometer makes me nervous. That usually means that temperature is really important. In other words, if you don't get the temperature just right, you can completely screw it up. I've poured out or had to recook my share of jellies that didn't jell. And cooked fudge—that's another story and not a good one.

So I stirred continuously and watched. The last stage where you take the temperature up to 223 degrees (what is marked as "thread" on most candy thermometers) takes forever. Seriously—about 40 minutes. Maybe I got a little too impatient and turned up the heat a little too high because the wonderful concentrated fruit aroma turned to a . . . burning, scorching BAD smell.

I panicked, pulled the thermometer, and poured the mixture into my prepared pan. The burned pan aside, I was worried about the scorched taste ruining the flavor.

But the coating on the cooled spoon tasted ok, so I forged on.

Amazingly enough, the final product was delicious, with a burst of concentrated strawberry flavor. I must have ditched the pan soon enough. And even though the mixture never got quite to 223, the consistency was just right.

I was so thrilled that I got a little cocky and decided to see what I could do with a few kiwis I had on hand. I had skipped straining the strawberry mixtures because my food processor seemed to have done a good enough job, but kiwi has more to strain out. I wanted a few seeds but not too many.

My main divergence from any recipe I found was to add an amount of sugar that depends on the sweetness of the fruit. I'm always suspicious of sugar amounts in fruit recipes since fruits vary widely in sweetness depending on type, ripeness, and season. I also had to guess at the pectin amount to add since different fruits have different natural pectin amounts.

One thing that helped this time is I used a smaller pan, so stirring the mixture from the edges to prevent scorching as it reached a higher temperature was easier. Also, given that I had some idea from the previous batch of the consistency I was looking for, I ignored the thermometer at the end and instead decided that when you could draw with a spoon through the mixture a line that held for a few seconds that we were done. I was still a little below 223 degrees at this point, but I was right that this was enough cooking for the mixture to set.

Because I limited the amount of sugar I use, these were slightly sour, just like a kiwi. The sugar coating balanced the flavor nicely. Another change: Since the color was so beautiful, I sugared only the top. This meant that I couldn't store them stacked since the sides would stick together, but after leaving them on a small plate on the kitchen counter, this turned out to be a nonissue.


Four kiwi
sugar to taste, about 1/2 cup
1 1/2 tablespoon liquid pectin

Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper, using at little canola spray to fix the parchment to the sides of the pan.

Peel and chop kiwi. Puree in food processor. You should have about a cup.

Place in small saucepan. Stir in sugar to taste and then add pectin. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens and cooks down to the point that a line drawn with a wooden spoon will hold for a few seconds before filling in. This may take nearly half an hour.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and allow to set until cooled, about an hour.

Remove set mixture from pan and cut with sharp knife into small pieces. Coat pieces in sugar. Store at room temperature for a few days and in the refrigerator for longer than that.

So there you have it. Chalk this one up to "If Cindy can make this, so can I." I can't wait to experiment with more fruits as they come in season. I'm especially looking forward to my favorites, white peaches and nectarines, which I can imagine will have a delicate blush flavor. I'm also considering freezing a few batches of puree so I can make Pate de Fruit at Christmas for gifts.


Aspiring Kennedy said...

im impressed. i also am terrified of any recipe that engages a candy thermometer. the berry version looks amazing!

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Ok this is my next kitchen to-do! So pretty and I'm sure tasty! I know what you mean abt candy thermometers. I made (don't laugh- it was awesome!) Bacon peanut brittle a few weeks ago and I swear I had to stand and watch the hard to read bc of steam therm for bloody ever. Good thing it was a yummy end result.

Anonymous said...

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