Dried fruits are often added to baked goods, adding not just flavour but sweetness too. They are classified into two groups, Vine fruits and Tree fruits. The moisture of the fruits is reduced by drying and changes the character of the fruits so that the flavour and sweetness is intensified.
Dried fruit is often treated with sulphur dioxide to keep its colour and extend the shelf life. Fruit that has been treated with sulphur dioxide will be labelled as such and will keep for 18 months if stored in a cool dry place. Once opened the fruit should be transferred to an airtight container.
The flavour is not necessarily better, they may even be bitter, but they do offer a chemical free option for those who would prefer it.
When we think of dried fruits we often think first of the vine fruits, sultanas, raisins and currants. It take approx 1.8-2.3kg of fresh grapes to produce 450g of dried fruit.
- Sultanas are mainly produced in Australia, Greece, South Africa and Turkey. The majority are produced from the Thompson Seedless grape which has approx 20% fruit sugars, which helps to retain the plumpness of the fruit after drying. There are different drying methods, depending on the country they are produced. Once dried the fruit is processed in factories where it is washed , cleaned and coated in vegetable oil which keeps the fruit moist and prevents them from sticking to each other.
- Raisins are mainly produced in Afghanistan, Australia California, Chile and South Africa. From unseeded or seeded black or white grapes. Raisins are generally dark brown with a sweet mellow flavour. Harvested when fully ripe like sultanas they are dried by different methods depending on where they are produced. They are then washed and oiled before export.
- Around 89% of currants are produced in Greece with the remainder coming from Australia, South Africa and the USA. They are seedless black grapes all derived from the same variety, Corinth, from which the name currant comes. Currants are graded in two sizes small and medium, the small one mainly used by the baking industry and the medium sized variety sold for retail.
Recipes Using Dried Vine Fruits
Julies Bara Brith – Recipes Made Easy
Chelsea Buns – Recipes Made Easy
Mini Earl Grey Easter Simnel Cakes – Sneaky Veg
Easy Fruit Cake – Rachel Bustin
Yorkshire Fat Rascals – Tin and Thyme
Approximately 5.4kg fruit is required to produce 1 kg of dried fruit
- Apples and pears. Apples are peeled and cored and are available sliced or cut into chunks, they have a tangy chewy flavour. Pears are available in halves have a golden-yellow colour and a slightly granular texture
- Apricots and Peaches. Most apricots come from Turkey as well as from Australia, Iran, South Africa and the USA. Un-sulphured fruit will be darker, and the apricots will be brown. Peaches are available in halves or slices and have a slightly sharp tangy flavour.
- Cherries and Cranberries – dried cherries and cranberries are produced in a similar way to vine fruits and available whole and chopped. Cranberries usually have added sugar to sweeten them.
- Dates are the berry fruit of the date palm. About 3/4 of the worlds date crop is grown in the middle east mainly Iraq, Iran and Israel, although the USA grows a large amount in California and Arizona, The much prized Medjool date is originally from Morocco though the Deglet Noor date is the most readily available. You can buy dried dates both pitted and unpitted as well as in blocks of chopped dates or bags of free flowing chopped dates. If a dried date has become too hard, soak in hot water for 15 minutes prior to using.
- Figs are available whole or in blocks and are yellow brown in colour. The give richness to cakes and have a slightly gritty texture
- Prunes are dark dried plums. Available pitted and unpitted, they are great for giving moisture to a fruit cake.
Recipes using Dried Tree fruits
Seedy Fruit Flapjacks – Recipes Made Easy
Very Berry Scones – Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen
Apricot Tea Bread – Farmers Girl Kitchen
Breakfast Bran Muffins with Date and Apple – Mad about Macarons
Sugar Free Date and Apple Cake – Searching for Spice
Apricot and Apple Couronne – Baking Queen 74
Easy Blackberry Cake with Prunes – Everyday Healthy Recipes
Biscotti with Cranberries and Pistachios – Captain BobCat