We originally produce dried fruits for preserving purpose. Since fresh fruits lose most of their moisture during the drying process, their flavor is more concentrated when dried. Due to their hydroscopic nature, dried fruits generally keep cookies moist and thus extend their shelf life.
Using fresh fruits in cookie doughs is not recommended because:
- The additional moisture that comes with fresh fruits will throw the proportion of other cookie ingredients off balance.
- Fresh fruits can be easily torn or broken during mixing.
Their high sugar content makes Thompson seedless grapes ideal for raisin production. These grapes are grown in the Central Valley of California. After being harvested in late August, they are dried by one of these methods.
- Laying out in the sun to dry naturally for several weeks, OR
- Passing through a compartment of hot and dry air. Golden raisins are produced by this method in the presence of sulfur dioxide. This chemical bleaches the natural pigment of grapes and prevents them from darkening during drying.
Either way, the goal is to remove about 75 – 85% of moisture from fresh fruits. The residual moisture is necessary to keep dried fruits moist and soft.
Select raisins refer to regular-sized raisins. Currants, dried from small dark grapes, are about ¼ the size of regular raisins.
To keep light-colored fruits such as apricots, pears, plums from darkening during drying, many manufacturers willingly add sulfur dioxide. If doing so, they are obligated by law to disclose the use of this chemical on the product label.
Sugar has to be added to other fruits such as cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, and even cherries before drying them, because of their relatively low sugar content compared to Thompson seedless grapes. This addition makes them much more expensive than raisins. Otherwise, the dried version of these fruits will be very tough, dry, and sour.
Soak dried fruits in liquid such as water, wine, rum, brandy for at least an hour before using them for better flavor. To prevent further moisture loss and molding, keep dried fruits in airtight containers in a cool, dry place away from sun light. Raisins do contain a small amount of natural antimicrobial agents that help prevent mold growth.
1. FIGONI, P. 2004. How Baking Works – Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science. John Wilet & Sons, Inc.
2. LABENSKY, S.R., VAN DAMME, E., MARTEL, P., TENBERGEN, K. 2005. On Baking – A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals. Pearson Education, Inc.