Make yourself comfortable. We have a lot to talk about today.
For the better part of two weeks, I’ve been standing at the stove. Standing at the stove, stirring viciously boiling pots of sugary goo that constantly threatens to splash on my arm, all the while crossing my fingers behind my back that it sets into a perfect little square. A perfect little square with a crunchy sugar crust and a gummy center.
I have a long-standing love affair with pâte de fruit (AKA fruit gummies). These little crunchy gummy fruit squares are the first thing I look for when I walk into a chocolate shop. Truffles are truffles, but really: tell me your pâte de fruit flavor du jour, si’l vous plaît.
It’s hard for me to narrow it down, but my favorite pâte de fruits to find in a chocolate shop are: passion fruit (I’m 100% certain Heaven has bowls of passion fruit candy everywhere), rhubarb, lemon, and apricot. Bonus points for peach pâte de fruit, because it has the lowest pectin around (making it difficult to set). But when strawberry pâte de fruit is in the window, I freeze. Strawberry candy is a fickle thing: it should taste exactly like a fresh, ripe strawberry, but also super concentrated and jammy. In short, when I bite into strawberry candy, I want it to taste like I’m biting into a thousand fresh strawberries in the fields of Salinas with the ocean behind my back. Are you on board?
I leaned on my friend Patrick who works at my favorite patisserie. He was no help when my first 4 batches refused to gel. He basically said ‘good luck, your thermometer is to blame.’
After dozens of batches (literally 12 bags of frozen strawberries), I got it (no thanks to Patrick). Originally, I was trying to use gelatin (because I wanted extra bounce), but pectin is the way to go. There was also a time or two when I forgot to add all of the sugar. I’ll take some of the blame here.
Pâte de fruit isn’t particularly difficult in execution, it’s just that it varies so much based on your fruit. Both the type of fruit and the age of fruit matter here, because it’s all about the pectin. So, this recipe will work with frozen strawberries and no other fruit. If you want a blueberry pâte de fruit, ask google. Wanna add lemon juice? Don’t. Ask google. What I’m sharing here is a recipe for strawberry pâte de fruit with no other ingredients besides frozen strawberries, sugar and pectin.
Let’s talk about pectin. I didn’t want to buy it. Lord knows I don’t need another little bag of unlabeled white powder in my already over-flowing pantry. Wait, that came out wrong. I don’t do drugs. I just have little jars of cream of tartar, corn starch, meringue powder, baking powder, and powdered sugar everywhere; it never seems to end. But, I bit the bullet and bought some…mainly because my favorite chocolate shop is 20 minutes away. Pectin is in the regular grocery store–yep, even the small stores, because grandmas use it to make jam in the summertime. Go to the section where they sell the canning jars, and you’ll find a little box of pectin powder.
Speaking of jam, if you flub up this recipe, you’ll have very good strawberry jam, so please be happy with that. The way to mess up this recipe is to not reach the proper temperature. Grab a candy thermometer, clip it on, and watch it like a hawk. And stir, stir, stir. A lot of recipes mention in the head notes that you need a high-quality, thick-bottomed pan to make candy, or else you’ll fail. I say that’s bull. I used a copper pot (designed specifically for things like jams and jellies), and I STILL burnt the bottom. The limiting factor is stirring frequency, not a fancy pot. If you do happen to burn the mixture in a few places, scoop it out and keep going. I ate batch #8 (in which I scooped out a burnt blob), and it was tasty. The burned bits are going to happen near the thermometer, so be sure to unclip it and stir behind it every few minutes. It’s a pain, I know, but you’re basically running your own patisserie here, so be proud of your efforts.
And maybe, just maybe, when you serve this, someone will say ‘wow, I didn’t even know you could make that from scratch!’ which is exactly what someone said the last time I served homemade marshmallows. Think about it: when was the last time you wowed someone?
It looks like you have a date with a candy thermometer. Enjoy!
Yields 32 one-inch squares
Strawberry pâte de fruits, small batch candy recipe.
5 minPrep Time
30 minCook Time
35 minTotal Time
- 1 pound frozen whole strawberries, defrosted
- 2 cups granulated sugar, divided use (plus extra for rolling)
- 2 tablespoons powdered pectin
- First, line a 9x5" bread loaf pan with parchment paper.
- Place the defrosted strawberries in a blender, and puree until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. You should have 2 cups of puree.
- Next, add the puree to a 2-quart saucepan, and clip a candy thermometer on the edge.
- Whisk together 1 cup of the sugar with the pectin, and then pour this into the strawberry puree. (Pectin can clump if you don't blend it with the sugar first).
- Turn the heat to medium-high, and cook the mixture, while constantly stirring until it comes to a simmer, about 5 minutes.
- Next, add the remaining cup of sugar to the pan, and continue to cook, while constantly stirring, until it reaches 235° F. Be patient, it will take at least 15-20 minutes, and it will seem to stay at 220° forever. Just keep stirring and letting it reduce.
- Once the mixture comes to 235°, remove it from the heat, and pour it into the prepared pan.
- Leave the pan at room temperature for 2-3 hours to set. I let mine set overnight, uncovered. If you live in a low humidity environment, you may want to cover it with plastic wrap.
- Remove the pâte de fruit from the pan, and using a knife dipped in sugar, cut it into cubes. Roll each cube in extra sugar, and place on a plate to serve.