Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fruit Gems

AKA Pates De Fruit or Pectin Gels

strawberry and peach candies

Oh, pates de fruit (pronounced paht day fwee), my old adversary, long you have vexed me. I’m sure many of you have come across tantalizing blog posts featuring pates de fruits, written by a variety of reputable bloggers, tempting us with beautiful images, and enticing us with delicious tales of these seeming pinnacles of patisserie. How could anyone not want to give these recipes a try? Moreover, who could resist when the execution always seems so easy? Too easy.

I have lost track of how many failed batches of ruined candy I turned out on my journey to fruit jewels. I had great trouble achieving the correct texture, a task that was undoubtedly made more challenging by the fact that I’ve never actually had homemade pates de fruit before. In any case, I was hoping for something with a chewy initial resistance but not too sticky—something akin to a Sunkist fruit gem or a Trader Joe’s fruit gel – but my batches came out like chewy jam, gelatin, or just fruity goo.

So why would I, a candy novice who isn’t even sure what these candies are supposed to taste like, presume to post a recipe for this treat? Because I got it right, friends! I’m sure of it, and I’m proud.

Now, I certainly wouldn’t say that my recipe is superior to any other that’s out there, but it’s just as good (in fact, it’s identical to most), and I have some tips to help you avoid some of the critical errors that I encountered along the way to success. I also have an important warning for anyone who wants to attempt making this or any other pates de fruit recipe: your candy is NOT going to turn out right the first time. I’m sorry, but them’s the breaks; every batch of candy is a little different, and there is an art to making it which requires a process of trial and error in order to achieve perfection. If you’re still willing, let’s get to work.

Lemon Ginger Strawberry Pates de Fruit, Fruit Gems Recipe:

  1. Fresh Strawberries -32 ounces
  2. Zest of one lemon
  3. Fresh Grated Ginger – 1 teaspoon
  4. Sugar – 600 grams
  5. Liquid Pectin (I used Certo brand, canning pectin) – 3 tablespoons
  6. Lemon juice – one lemon


Line a 9 inch square brownie pan with parchment paper.

Clean and hull the strawberries and place them into a food processor with 1/3 of the sugar, lemon zest, and grated ginger. Process until the mixture is a very smooth liquid.

Next, STRAIN, STRAIN, STRAIN the strawberry/sugar liquid through a fine-mesh strainer and into a pot. You should end up with around 2 cups or 600 grams of strained fruit puree.

Add the second 1/3 of the sugar and half of the lime juice (from half the lime) to the puree, put the pot on your stovetop set to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. When the mixture begins to boil, add the remaining sugar and pectin, and continue to stir the mixture frequently.

Here comes the tricky part: Most recipes say that you need to let your mixture boil until it reaches a temperature of 222 degrees Fahrenheit, which is probably correct. However, I have not once made a batch that was able to reach that temperature. Instead, I suggest just letting it boil for around 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until it reaches a very thick viscosity, forms gentle, infrequent bubbles on the surface when left alone, and looks kind of like the following image:

bubbling peach
(Actually, an image of peach bubbling crude, but for the purposes of this blog, we'll consider it strawberry)

When you think the candy is ready, transfer it from the pot to the lined brownie pan in an even layer. Place the pan on a cooling rack in the refrigerator and allow the candy to cool and set up for 10-24 hours. When the candy has set up, you can remove it from the pan and parchment, cut it into the shapes you like and roll it in sugar. These fruit gems make elegant gifts and delicious treats!

Important Notes

  • STRAINING: It is absolutely essential that the fruit be strained through a fine mesh strainer after it is pureed. Otherwise, you’ll end up with something closer to jam than candy.

  • TEMPERATURE: Your candy thermometer might never get up to 222 degrees, 210 degrees, or even 200 degrees. I’ve tested these recipes with multiple candy thermometers and my candy rarely got up to temperature. In fact, many times the temperature of the candy would drop precipitously and without reason. This is the main reason why making these candies is a process of trial and error; you will need to use your senses to determine if your pot of bubbling crude is ready or not.

  • NEVER USE BUTTER: I found a recipe, which I tried, that called for the addition of butter. Now I’m typically a butter proponent, and I’m not sure how it could ever make anything worse, but guys, it was so bad! So bad, oh my gosh!

  • SUBSTITUTING GELATIN: Don’t substitute gelatin for pectin. Why? Because your batch will come out more like jello shots than candy.

  • NOT SETTING UP? If your candy does not set up and become firm, you can likely salvage your work by returning the results to a pot with another ½ cup of sugar and boiling the mixture again for another 15 minutes.

Watermelon and Peach Pate de Fruit
watermellon pectin candy

Well, with that, I wish you all the best in your candy making efforts. Regardless of how your batch of candy ends up, it is still almost always edible. And many times, it is tasty, if perhaps, not what you expected. Furthermore, the process is always fun; just try not to burn yourself!

Homemade Pate de Fruit Candy Gift Box
homemade candy box