With back-to-school season upon us, parents and caregivers everywhere are scrambling to come up with lunchbox-appropriate foods that taste good, have some nutritional value, and will actually get eaten. There are lots of storebought options available that are great when you're in a hurry, but they are often loaded down with sugar, preservatives and other extra stuff that isn't great for growing bodies and brains. Fruit leather is a beloved nut-free snack, and it turns out it is super easy to make at home once you know how.
Seriously, all you really need for homemade fruit leather is one ingredient: fruit. You can use one fruit or a mix of fruits or even veggies (we won't tell). Use soft produce that can be turned into a smooth puree in your food processor or blender; think mango, berries, kiwi or steamed carrots. Once your fruit (or veg!) is pureed, taste the mixture and determine if it needs a little sugar.
If you'd like to play around with flavors you can add some spices to the puree like dried ginger or cinnamon. Or you can just let the fresh fruit flavor shine through.
Once you've made your puree, all you have to do is pour it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and put it in a low oven for about six hours. Yes, that's a long time. But it's completely hands-off so you can work from home while the puree transforms into a dried leather just in time for your kids to enjoy it as an after school snack.
When it's done baking, cut the leather into strips and store it rolled up in an airtight container. It should stay fresh for up to a month at room temperature, or you can even make it ahead and freeze it for up to a year. Homemade fruit leather is the perfect thing to pack in a lunchbox, as long as you have all the school lunch packing supplies you actually need.
This recipe is by West of the Loop
Step 1: Preheat oven to its lowest setting, somewhere around 150 to 170F.
Step 2: Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
Step 3: Puree the 10 diced mangos in a food processor or high-speed blender.
Step 4: Taste the puree and add 2 teaspoons sugar if needed, or to taste. (Feel free to use more or less than the amount called for.)
Step 5: Add 1 teaspoon dried ginger and blend a few more seconds, just to combine.
Step 6: Spread the fruit puree in a thin, even layer on the baking sheets. The puree should not be more than 1/8-inch thick. (To measure, stick a skewer in the puree and then measure how far up the skewer the puree comes.)
Step 7: Dry the puree in the oven until darkened, dry to the touch and pliable, approximately six hours.
Step 8: Peel the fruit leather off the Silpat or parchment paper and cut into strips.
Step 9: Store in an airtight container.