Crazy, right? Who would ever have guessed that a childhood snack that seemed so completely and utterly manufactured can be made at home and actually only has two ingredients? Just strawberries and sugar! (A third ingredient, not to be underestimated, is time.)
But the time is totally, totally worth it. Strawberry was my favorite flavor of fruit roll-up, a snack I was hardly ever allowed to have. The household I grew up in emphasized the homemade and the natural...fruit roll-ups didn't seem to share either of those characteristics, as I did not yet know the true paucity of ingredients in the concoction. My tastebuds yearned for the sweet tartness of the fruit roll-ups I so rarely ate. I loved their stretchy, sticky, chewy character. Occasionally I would have one at a friend's house after school, or I would trade at lunch for one when the teachers weren't looking; the occasions, though memorable, were few and far between.
With that covetous background in mind, imagine my delight when I saw a recipe last year for what Gourmet called strawberry leather, but what any reader who grew up in the 80s knew was really a fruit roll-up! The recipe, unfortunately, got lost in the shuffle of intern year, until I was redirected to it by Ruth Reichl's weekly e-mail highlighting recipes from Gourmet through the years. (I also uncovered this phenomenal recipe for strawberry ice cream, though I used my custard recipe.)
Here's what you do: puree the strawberries and sugar; strain the puree (definitely the most annoying step); boil it down; and dry the spread-out mixture in a low-temperature oven. Just four easy steps, and you're back in elementary school, whether or not you're singing medleys from Oliver!
I don't know about you, but we sang lots of medleys in school. I think kids in general sing a lot, but most kids learn the real lyrics to songs. JMc's and my experience was different: the lyrics of "Edelweiss" are perpetually confused in our heads with the elementary school's tenth anniversary song. As I grew older, it was extremely disillusioning to find out that the songs we sang with such pride hadn't actually been written for the 120 or so current students of the school, and instead the tunes had been stolen from musicals of the 50s and 60s with modern-day, school-specific lyrics. Why didn't we figure it out? Why didn't our teachers tell us? Why didn't our parents tell us? It was some sort of Santa Claus-song medley-Easter Bunny conspiracy, I suppose.
Now that strawberries have hit the shelves of the grocery store in force, I am delighted to have this recipe to add to my arsenal of strawberry greatest hits. The recipe is delicious and all-natural. Eat the resulting fruit roll-up while you ponder what to write in your book report and whether you should have your birthday party at the zoo or the miniature golf course and what the true words of "Edelweiss" are and other such concerns of a third-grader's life. Enjoy the memories!
Strawberry Fruit Roll-up
Adapted from Gourmet, May 1998
Serves: 6-8 as a snack
Time: 30 min active, 6 hours total
1 1/2 lb strawberries, hulled and halved
3/4 c. sugar
Puree strawberries and sugar in a blender; you will have about three cups of puree. Press puree through a fine-meshed sieve in batches. In a medium-sized heavy pot, simmer puree over low heat until volume is reduced to approximately one cup, stirring frequently. This will take between 45 minutes and an hour.
Meanwhile, place a 12 x 17-inch Silpat on a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 200. When the puree has reduced, spread evenly over the Silpat with a spatula. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until darkened in color and still tacky when tested with your finger.
Cool completely (at least 1 to 2 hours), then place parchment paper over the dried puree and roll up. Cut the resulting cylinder into 6 or 8 pieces with a sharp knife. (B points out that this last step technically makes it closer to Fruit-by-the-Foot than a fruit roll-up.)