Okay, so I may have just made a pretty life-changing decision. I’m thinking about possibly going to pastry school. Like, this year.
I’ve been sitting around the past few days, trying to figure out what to do with my life because now’s a good a time as ever. I approached it the same way I decided my major… by posing the question, “what do I like to do”? In college, the answer was, “read”, thus I became an English major. Right now, the answer is staunchly, “bake”. Not necessarily breads (although, I’d love to learn), but beautiful things like cakes & tarts & candy (granted candy isn’t usually baked, but I’m including it anyway)! I think it would be a really wise investment (both financially and time/effort-wise) for me to actually learn the craft. So that’s what I’m thinking these days.
And in keeping with that thinking, I decided to try my hand at candy again. Armed with a new candy thermometer (my last one conked out mid-caramel, the bastard) and a pioneering spirit, I plunged headfirst into pâte de fruit, which is basically just a fancy French term for fruit jellies.
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a recipe for strawberry-rhubarb pâte de fruit, but I hesitated. Why, you ask? Because, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned once or twice, I am without food processor. This is a conscious decision, of course – I prefer to put a little work into my culinary experiments and not having this modern shortcut at my disposal forces me to use a little ingenuity and keeps me on my toes. So I did a little research and came up with a suitable substitute for the Cuisinart!
There was nothing stopping me…
Started out by preparing the fruit… Cleaned about half a pound of fresh strawberries by swishing them around in a bowl of cool water and then hulled each one with a paring knife.
Took a half pound of fresh rhubarb, trimmed the toxic leaves, 86’d the ends, cleaned them thoroughly and chopped/sliced them into chunks.
If I owned a food processor, this would be the time to throw the fruit in and hit “puree”. But not this gal… The strawberries were soft enough to just jump right into the pureeing process, but the rhubarb required a little more prep work. So I steamed the rhubarb chunks in a double boiler to soften (and also to bring out the flava)!
The softening took about 10-15 minutes, so I let the steam do its thing (stirring occasionally) while I worked on the strawberries! First I chopped the cleaned & hulled berries into chunks. Then I threw them into a Ziploc. Smashed them with the back of a metal ladle (which is unbelievably fun) and then I rolled over the smashed bits with a rolling pin. And ta-da! Strawberry puree!
Ran the puree through a mesh sieve placed over my saucepan…
And squeezed all the juice out with the aid of my trusty silicone spatula.
By this point, the rhubarb was sufficiently softened – I checked it by piercing one of the bigger chunks with a fork.
Then I repeated the ladle/rolling pin process and ended up with more lovely puree!
Pushed the rhubarb puree through the sieve into the saucepan…
Yay – strawberry & rhubarb puree!
Then I added in 2 tbsp of lemon juice…
And 1/2 cup of sugar, and mixed it all up.
Once the fruit mixture was smooth (no clumps is important!), I turned the heat on and stirred it constantly over med heat.
As soon as the temperature reached 113 F, I stirred in 2.5 tbsp of liquid pectin. I had no idea where to find liquid pectin, but it’s actually pretty accessible – I found mine at Safeway, near the yeast in the baking aisle. It was a little spendy, but a little goes a long way!
Candy thermometer read 113 F, so I stirred in the pectin along with an additional 1.5 cups sugar. Stir, stir, stir!
Slowly brought the temperature to 200 F and kept it there for 2-3 minutes. Then brought it up to 223 F (thank god for my candy thermometer!) and kept it at that temperature for another 2-3 minutes! It looks pretty scary during all this – like an angry, bubbling crude, but apparently, it’s supposed to!
After a couple minutes at 223 F, I immediately poured it into an 8×8 baking dish lined with wax paper.
Sprinkled a bit o’ sugar over it and left it to cool/set for 2 hours. Well, the recipe says 2 hours, but since I started this project in the middle of the night, I just popped it into the fridge until the morn.
The next morn, I released the jellies from the pan by gently picking up the corners of the wax paper. Easy. But then, it seemed as though the edges of the jelly had adhered to the paper. Ugh! My solution was to warm a butter knife by sticking it in a glass of hot water for a minute, dried it off and then carefully ran the knife along the entire outer edge of the jellies! Bam, worked like a charm.
Sliced it into 1-inch strips…
Then, 1-inch squares!
Popped them outta the pan and rolled them in sugar.
And bam… Strawberry & Rhubarb Pâte de Fruit!
They’re totally delicious, but mine didn’t come out quite as firm as they should have (probably could have been rectified by boiling at 223 F for a little bit longer!), so I’m storing them in the freezer. I’m not sure of the chemical properties, but there’s something about these that stops them from freezing solid – instead they turn the perfect consistency…
Recipe adapted from Tartelette…