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Apricot Vanilla Bean Fruit Leather ~ Gourmet Edition ~

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Vanilla blends naturally with apricot’s sharper flavor.  Apricot recipes traditionally call for this sweet, fragrant spice.  You can use either fresh vanilla scraped from the pod or vanilla extract, and it will impart a warm, mellow flavor to an apricot recipe.

Because I am always fascinated as to how things grow and how they are processed, I had to do some digging around about vanilla.  This stuff never ceases to amaze me.  Cultivating vanilla beans is a lengthy and labor-intensive process, as each flower must be hand pollinated to ensure it produces a bean. This might  help  explain why it is so expensive.  It is the second most expensive spice after Saffron.  And to complicate matters, a flower only lives for one day!   Its beans grow to between 6 and 10 inches long and resemble a green string bean.  To develop their signature flavor, the beans must endure an elaborate, three to four month curing and sun drying process.  Once this is complete, the beans are graded and bundled to ship to the United States.

When the beans arrive in the United States, they are either packaged as vanilla beans, or used to create the amber liquid known as the magic spoonful – pure vanilla extract.  The vanilla extract is aged to perfection before it is bottled and sent to the grocery store.

Ingredients: yields 3 cups puree5 cups sliced apricots

  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds, ground in spice grinder
  • 1 vanilla bean (seeds only)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
Preparation:
  • Select RIPE or slightly overripe apricots that have reached a peak in color, texture, and flavor.
  • Prepare the apricots; wash, dry, and remove pits.
  • Puree the apricots, vanilla bean seeds, ground chia and salt, in the blender or food processor until smooth.  Taste and sweeten if needed.  Keep in mind that flavors will intensify as they dehydrate.  When adding a sweetener do so 1 tbsp at a time, and reblend, tasting until it is at the desired taste.  It is best to use a liquid type sweetener.  Don’t use a granulated sugar because it tends to change the texture.  
    • Allow the puree to sit for 10 minutes so the chia has time to do its thickening magic.
  • Spread the fruit puree on teflex sheets that come with your dehydrator.  Pour the puree to create an even depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch.  If you don’t have teflex sheets for the trays, you can line your trays with plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Do not use wax paper or aluminum foil.
    • Lightly coat the food dehydrator plastic sheets or wrap with a cooking spray, I use coconut oil that comes in a spray.
    • When spreading the puree on the liner, allow about an inch of space between the mixture and the outside edge.  The fruit leather mixture will spread out as it dries, so it needs a little room to allow for this expansion.
    • Be sure to spread the puree evenly on your drying tray.  When spreading the puree mixture, try tilting and shaking the tray to help it distribute more evenly.  Also, it is a good idea to rotate your trays throughout the drying period.  This will help assure that the leathers dry evenly.
  • Dehydrate the fruit leather at 145 degrees (F) for 1 hour, reduce temp to 105 degrees (F) and continue drying for about 16 (+/-) hours.  Flip the leather over about half way through, remove the teflex sheet and continue drying on the mesh sheet.  Finished consistency should be pliable and easy to roll.
    • Check for dark spots on top of the fruit leather.  If dark spots can be seen it is a sign that it is not completely dry.
    • Press down on the fruit leather with a finger.  If no indentation is visible or if it is no longer tacky to the touch, the fruit leather is dry and can be removed from the dehydrator.
    • Peel the leather from the dehydrator trays or parchment paper. If it peels away easily and holds its shape after peeling, it is dry. If it is still sticking or loses its shape after peeling, it needs further drying.
    • Under-dried fruit leather will not keep; it will mold.  Over-dried fruit leather will become hard and crack, although it will still be edible and will keep for a long time
  • Storage: to store the finished fruit leather…
    • Allow the leather to cool before wrapping up to avoid moisture from forming, thus giving it a breeding ground for molds.
    • Roll them up and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
    • Place in an air-tight container, and store in a dry, dark place. (Light will cause the fruit leather to discolor.)
    • The fruit leather will keep at room temperature for one month, or in a freezer for up to one year.
 

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