· as part of trail mix- any dried fruit is great
· granola- think beyond raisins- cherries, figs, dates, papaya, apricots.
· cooked with hot cereal, especially with a nuts and a little spice- often you won't need any extra sweetener
· stirred into yogurt (unsweetened or flavored)
· as a ‘fruit compote’- reconstituted and served in the soaking liquid, especially with a little cardamom or cinnamon added
· sprinkled into salad- try dried cranberries, strawberries, cherries, diced dried pear or apple. For an extra kick, soak the fruit in balsamic vinegar or any kind of citrus juice
· throw into a smoothie
· soaked and put in yeast bread- my favorite sweet bread adds snipped apricots, pecans, and diced candied orange peel .
· fruit cake. Homemade. This is entirely a different animal than those artificially-colored and –flavored ones from the store. Use a rich butter, egg, and brown sugar base. My favorite combo is dried apricots, pecans, and diced (homemade) candied orange peel. Sometimes with raisins.
· soaked (or not) and snipped into quickbreads or muffins. Maple-fig-walnut is really good.
· Reconstituted and baked into pie, cobbler, or crisp.
· soaked and run through the blender as a puree- use in cakes, muffins, breads to increase moisture and sweetness. You can usually reduce the fat in the recipe by the same amount as you added of puree.
· pureed (as above); use as a fruit sauce on pancakes, waffles, cake, or icecream. You can even make this puree into jam.
· mixed into cookies. Favorite-ever recipe is at the bottom of this post.
When should you soak the fruit? Do this when you are adding it to anything that depends on moisture- if you add it unsoaked to breads or anything else baked, the fruit will soak itself while the food cooks- taking liquid away from the dough or batter. This leads to tougher baked goods. For this reason, I prefer to soak raisins before swirling them inside cinnamon rolls or raisin bread. You can also soak it anytime you want the fruit softer and less chewy, as in salads. Don’t add soaked fruit to granola (unless you’re going to eat it immediately); moisture in granola can cause mold.
When you’re reconstituting dried fruit, don’t expect it to look and feel just like fresh. Drying breaks down cell walls some, so the reconstituted fruit will more closely resemble the cooked version. (In other words, reconstituted apples will NOT be crunchy.)
How do you reconstitute the fruit? Soak it: boiling water works fastest, but will kill any enzymes remaining in the fruit. Cold water works, but takes about three times as long. Warm water is a happy medium. Plan on 5-30 minutes when using hot water, 10-60 minutes for warm, or 30 minutes plus for cold water. Times will vary depending on the hardness of your water (soft water works faster), how old the fruit is, how dried-out it is, if it’s sweetened (sweeter=longer), and how big the pieces are. Use only enough water to barely cover the fruit; using more will rob the fruit of more of its sweetness. Save the soaking liquid; use it in the recipe if you can. I love to drink it… this can also be used as a pancake syrup. If you find you’re sensitive to the sulfur dioxide that some fruits are treated with (to improve color and shelf life), draining and discarding the liquid can remove some of this preservative.
If dried until crisp, the fruit can be turned into a powder, using a blender, food processor, or coffee grinder. Use in any recipe you want fruit flavor- baking, hot cereal, smoothies, and more. What about shelf life?- it's best within 1 year; quite a bit longer if oxygen-free, cool and dark. When not at its best, it's still food!
Here’s the recipe for one of my favorite cookies. Ever. A friend of mine who DOESN’T LIKE COOKIES loves these! They’re good without the glaze, but adding that last little kick of flavor (and eye appeal) elevates them to fantastic. You could substitute dried chopped tart cherries for the apricots. (If you add chocolate chips to that variation, leave off the glaze; it’d be overkill. Unless maybe you’re drizzling melted chocolate!)
Chewy Apricot-Almond Oatmeal Cookies
1 c. butter, softened
¾ c. brown sugar
½ c. (granulated) sugar
½ tsp. almond extract
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 ½ c. regular or quick-cooking oats
6 oz. (1 c.) dried apricots, snipped
½ c. finely chopped almonds (toast first for best flavor)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter until almost smooth. Add sugars and beat until fluffy. Mix in egg and almond extract, beat well. Add flour and baking soda and mix. Fold in oats, apricots, and almonds. Add 2 tsp. water if needed.
Scoop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 8-10 minutes or until just brown around edges. The centers should still look wet, they continue to cook internally for the next twenty minutes. Let cookies cool on tray for one minute, then remove to a cooling rack. Drizzle almond glaze on them in a criss-cross pattern. This is really fast when you put the cookies close together and drizzle them with long sweeping lines.
2 c. powdered sugar
½ tsp. almond extract
2-3 Tbsp. water
Mix to get a good drizzling consistency. Put glaze in a plastic baggie, poke or snip a small hole in it (how big depends on how thin your glaze is), and drizzle this on the cookies. Leftover glaze can be mixed into pancake or muffin batter, or used as a glaze on muffins. (Almond Poppyseed, anyone?)