Pates de fruit are sophisticated, bite-sized squares of fruit jellies that are sanded with crystallized sugar, chewy in texture and combine the sweet, tart flavors of natural fruit juice. If you have never had one, the distant imitators are gummy candies, Chuckles, or the chocolate covered jellies from a Whitman’s Sampler. The real thing provides an intensely real fruit jolt.
Pates de fruit is French for “fruit paste.” For my recipes I use local, usually wild fruits that I juice or puree first. The best fruits so far have been raspberry, sour cherry, damson plum and quince. The fruit puree is sweetened with sugar, and heated to thicken, stirred until smooth. Warm liquid gelatin (Certo) is added to the puree, which turns it into a thick fruit paste – the pates de fruit. The fruit paste is then spread into large pans to cool. After the paste is cooled, the jelly pans are inverted, and the solidified paste is cut into cubes. I leave the sheets of jelly on trays to dry for a couple weeks before proceeding. Getting the surface to dry to my liking has been tricky for me and I am still experimenting.
Confectioners and pastry chefs use specialty sanding sugars to coat the sticky pates de fruit. Sanding sugars adhere well but can be very expensive. Granulated sugar can be used as an alternative. I have tried raw sugar but the grain seems too large. You can leave off the sugar entirely and partially or fully dip in dark couverture chocolate.
I’ve been trying recipes for the past three years, fine tuning the process and measurements. I recommend making pates de fruits to more experienced bakers and candy makers. The recipe that has worked best so far has been from Lenotre’s Ice Creams and Candies (Barrons’ 1979, available at Amazon) The book has a severely dated look but technically expert recipes. They offer specific measurements and cooking times for various fruit purees.
The correct balance of sugar pectin and sugar is essential to create a drier (not too sticky or wet) pates de fruits. The liquid pectin is the far superior choice, rather than powdered pectin.
Lenotre’s Basic Recipe for Pâtes de Fruits
These are general measurements. You will need to check specific recipes in the book for the fruit you are using. This works for raspberry purée.
1 lb plus 2 oz fruit pulp/puree (4c of raspberries)
3 c sugar
2 pouches liquid, pectin based, jelling agent (Certo) – one box
For coating (optional) – Coarse, granulated sugar
Preparing the Mold: Lenotre uses specialty molds for making jellies. I carefully line a small brownie pan with silicon infused parchment paper. Wilson makes a non-stick parchment that can handle higher heat.
Preparing the fruit: wash, peel, and seed the fruit as necessary. Most fruits are then pureed.
Cooking the Fruit Jelly: Open the Certo packages and stand them upright in a bowl. These need to be ready when the fruit reaches the right temperature. In a large saucepan, place the fruit pulp and the sugar. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula. Once you reach a full, rolling boil, start the cooking time; from 4 to 9 minutes (depending on fruit used) – for raspberries cook for 6 minutes – at a rapid boil and stirring constantly. Add the butter halfway through the cooking time. When it is time, remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add the liquid jelling agent; stir vigorously for a few seconds to be sure that is completely combined with the jelly mixture.
To Mold, Cut, and Serve the Fruit Jellies: As soon as the jelling agent has been stirred in, carefully pour the boiling hot fruit jelly into the brownie pan. Allow to set and cool completely, at least 3 hours. You can leave the jelly in the pan for a couple weeks, or unmold, leaving the parchment in place, and store in plastic storage containers. Do not stack jellies. When you are ready to proceed, run the blade of a knife around the edge to detach it from the paper, trim any irregular edges, then cut it into 1” squares. Then roll the squares one at a time in granulated sugar (preferably large grained). This step is not absolutely necessary; it does, however, keep the jellies from sticking to each other if piled on top of each other when served and makes them more attractive.
To Store: The uncut jellies will keep for several months wrapped in the non-stick parchment paper it is molded on. Placed in a box, and kept in a cool cellar or the refrigerator. If kept in the refrigerator, the jelly picks up a little moisture but it keeps its shine better.
Once cut and rolled in sugar, the jellies will keep for a week in a closed container in the refrigerator; it is preferable to place them in individual paper cases if they are to be stored in this way to keep them from sticking together.