Ask Peter: Frozen fruit
Should I defrost frozen fruits like blueberries or raspberries and drain of juice before I use them for baking, or is that step not necessary? And what should I do with softer fruits and stonefruits when they get too juicy – cook them first or what – so that they don’t upset the balance of cakes or make the pie crust soggy? Thanks, Ana
You’re correct in wondering how best to deal with the various juices coming from the fruits as obviously if you were to add them, un-drained, into a batter or cake it’ll just become too soggy and that’s a disaster. There is a lot of flavour in the juices that run out, too, of course so if you drain them then you also lose a little of that, but compared to being too wet, it’s a small price to play.
You can deal with this in several ways.
I’ve successfully made muffins for years in the UK using frozen raspberries – simply adding them whole and frozen to the muffin mix just before baking. This means they don’t have time to defrost and weep juices and affect the batter. They cook perfectly well and they don’t make the mixture damp so the end result is a success.
Blueberries also work well, but I suspect using strawberries may not go so well as they tend to collapse more. Generally they’re larger to start with so you tend to cut them into chunks. It is the skin of the fruit that prevents the juices from leaking out, so once you’ve cut open and exposed the inner flesh, then the juices run.
If you’ve already defrosted the fruit, then drain it and reserve the juices. The fruit can be added either as it is to the mixture, or it could be roasted in the oven in a shallow layer at around 150C to dry it out slightly, which will also concentrate the flavour.
The reserved juice can be used to make an icing or glaze by mixing it into icing sugar with a little melted butter, or mixing it into melted chocolate. But make sure the liquid is at the same temperature as the chocolate to avoid it stiffening up.
Drying out in the oven
Going back to the oven – if you find you have the most delicious peaches and stonefruit (much later on in the year of course) but they’re too moist then you can cut them into quarters and lay them on a lightly oiled cake rack and dry them out in the oven set to around 130C fan bake. This will slowly dry out excess surface moisture and then eventually the inner moisture and this will make cakes and the like more successful.
Really ripe juicy fruit make the most delicious crumbles too and I find that mixing berries with apples or pears (or quince when in season) works a treat as the firmness of the pears or apples, combined with the juiciness of the berries, makes for a great textural contrast. The colour and vibrancy are great to admire when served with a lovely oaty crumble topping and a dollop of crème fraiche. Crumbles are not just for winter!
A quick berry jam
Quick jams are also a great way to use up excess fruit in the freezer. By this I mean the sort of jam that you’ll not plan on keeping for longer than a few weeks, storing it in the fridge.
- Drain the juices from 500g fruit and add the juice to a saucepan with 250g sugar, 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger, 1 bayleaf (or a few sprigs of thyme) and 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses. Ideally you want around 100ml juice so add a little apple or fruit juice if you don’t have enough from the fruit.
- Bring to the boil and cook 2 minutes, then slowly stir in the fruit, and bring back to the boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer and cook until it thickens to a jam like consistency, stirring frequently to prevent it catching.
- Tip into a clean heat-proof bowl, lay some baking parchment on top and leave to cool. It’ll be delicious!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to [email protected] and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes here.