The many faces of dried fruit

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Dried mango, apricots, figs, dates, cherries, papaya, physalis, plums: they can all be much more than just a snack. gebana employee Carolin Schaar, who shares her passion for food on her blog, has documented the versatility of dried fruit and how to make use of even old, hard pieces. Recipes by Carolin Schaar,

Trockenfrüchte im Regal

We’ve all been there: a package of dried fruit slips into the corner of the pantry only to be long forgotten. One day, you decide to tidy up and rediscover it, but the best before date has long since passed and the fruit has hardened. But does this really mean it needs to be thrown out?

Not at all! Dried fruit is often good far beyond the best before date. It just loses some residual moisture and tastes all the sweeter for it. Sometimes, the sugar crystallizes on the surface, but that’s no big deal. As long as it is kept safe from pests in a sealable glass jar or sealed in the original bag with a clip, you can enjoy it for a very long time.

Depending on how hard the dried fruit is, you can bring it back to life by soaking it in hot water for a little while or in cold water overnight. Before processing it for a recipe, let it drain well and, if need be, squeeze out any excess water.

Dried Fruit Is More Than a Snack

Many people like to eat dried fruit as a healthy snack, but this sweet flavour bomb can do so much more! Cooking, baking, pureeing, braising – the sky is the limit. Below are my top 5 ideas for using dried fruit.

1. Dried Fruit as a Sweetener

Finely chopped or pureed dates are great for sweetening. Basically, you can replace common sugar with date puree in many recipes, a practical way to use even your old dates. For these orange-tahini cookies, the only sweetener I used were dates. And these cardamom-cashew cookies from blogger Sophia Ernst also don’t contain any refined sugar. Raisins are another natural sweetener for baked goods. Some finely chopped dried fruit can also sweeten pancakes or porridge.

If you like fermenting kombucha or water kefir yourself, you can also really have fun with dried fruit. The sugar feeds the bacteria, yeast and fungi to ensure that your drink becomes delightfully fizzy.

2. Dried Fruit in Baked Goods and Desserts

In addition to being used as a pure sweetener, dried fruit can also add a special touch to cake batter, muffins, sweet bread or desserts. For baking, dried cherries with dark chocolate, in oat cookies or banana bread for example, are my absolute favourite combination. In muffin batter, apricots and ginger make a great team, as do mountain figs and walnuts.

If you don’t feel like baking, you can simply puree soaked and drained dried fruit to mix it with other ingredients and make a fruity sauce. Dried mango lends itself particularly well to sauces for pancakes, coconut milk rice or semolina porridge. In summer, a velvety mango layer is wonderful on a no-bake cheesecake.

Chocolate lovers can also try decorating their handmade bars with pieces of dried fruit. Florentine biscuits with nuts and fruit pieces are a nice gift idea as well.

3. Dried Fruit Smoothies

My secret tip for winter! When the selection of regional fruit is limited, dried fruit can add some variety as well as a tropical note to your dishes. First thing in the morning, I soak some mango, pineapple or papaya pieces in some water. About an hour later, they are perfect – even if you don’t have a powerful blender.

Green Mango Smoothie Bowl(2 Portions)

  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1⁄2 small zucchini
  • 1 small handful of dried mango (you can also use papaya, pineapple or a mix)
  • 1 banana (I freeze them when they’re very ripe precisely for this purpose)
  • 1 tsp baobab powder
  • 1 tsp flaxseeds
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Coconut milk (optional)

Puree all the ingredients in a blender. Only add as much liquid as needed to make the smoothie nice and creamy and not too watery. Pour into two bowls and decorate with fresh fruit, coconut strips, spelt flakes and more. Add a spoonful of nut butter (in this case, macadamia butter fits perfectly!) and enjoy.

Grüner Mango-Smoothie

4. Homemade Energy Balls

Countless muesli bars are available in stores, with long lists of ingredients and artificial additives. But there is another way. With just a few ingredients, you can easily make some yourself. Mix some nuts, cereal flakes and dried fruit and shape the ingredients into balls.

This works best with a food processor, but a powerful hand blender can also do the trick. If the balls are too sticky, you can add coconut strips, rolled oats or other cereal flakes until the ingredients can be shaped into balls with your hands. Many recipes can be found online using the keywords "Bliss Balls" or "Energy Balls".

Which ingredient combinations are the best? Here are my favourites:

  • Dried Mango + ...
    • Coconut strips and cashew nuts
    • Ginger, curcuma and lemon
  • Dates + ...
    • Rolled oats and cacao powder
    • Almond, cacao and orange peel
  • Apricots + ...
    • Grated carrots, cashew nuts and lemon

5. Spice Up Savoury Dishes

It can also be helpful to round off the flavour profile of savoury dishes with a little sweetness. Salads, soups and much more can benefit from the addition of dried fruit. Prunes and apricots, for example, are great in spicy stews. My grandma always swore by prunes when baking the Christmas goose – and I also like to use dried fruit in hearty meals such as vegetarian mushroom dishes where they go together wonderfully.

Last but not least, dried fruit can enhance spreads or dips. Hummus with a few apricots or a mango-cashew spread are just some of the countless ideas that can be found online. I recently made a fig balsamic chutney with some Turkish mountain figs. Dried mango can also be used for mango chutneys, which are often used in Asian cuisine.

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