My latest sweet obsession is pâtes de fruits, which are jellied candies made with fresh fruit. They have long been one of my mother’s favorites, and growing up, I remember my dad often gifting her boxes of pâtes de fruits instead of chocolates to celebrate special occasions. This is just one of the things my mom passed on to me. They’ve also long been one of my weaknesses, but I only started making them with the goal of tucking them into macarons, inspired by pastry chef Pierre Hermé.
I’ve been playing with different methods and ratios so I’m not ready to provide a definitive how-to yet, but I thought I would share this quick, easy recipe I adapted from Jacques Pépin. This recipe is easier than other traditional methods because you are incorporating ready-made jam (store-bought or homemade both work) into the mix. Doing so allows you to benefit from the pectin developed in the jam—which helps the pâtes de fruit set—and from an intense flavor boost. Because the jam plays an important role flavor-wise, if you’re using store-bought jam, make sure to choose a brand that uses natural ingredients and forgo all the reduced-sugar or sugar-free varieties.
Makes about a hundred 0.75 x 0.75 inch [2-cm] pâtes de fruits.
Lightly oil an 8 x 8 inch [20 x 20 cm] baking dish, then line with wax paper, letting it hang over the rim (this will make it easier to pull the candy mixture out of the pan later on).
Combine the rhubarb and water in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rhubarb breaks apart, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the strawberries and the strawberry jam, and stir to soften the jam (especially if it is a set variety). Use a stick blender to puree the fruit mixture to a smooth consistency (you can also use a stand blender or a food processor to do this step). Strain the puree back into the saucepan. Put back over medium-high heat and boil, stirring often, until the mixture is reduced to 3 cups [750 ml], about 10 minutes.
While the fruit mixture is cooking, pour ¾ cup [180 ml] in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand until the gelatin softens, then heat in the microwave for 20 seconds and stir so the gelatin dissolves completely. Whisk the melted gelatin into the hot strawberry and rhubarb puree, then pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When the pâtes de fruits are set, run a sharp knife around the edges of the baking pan, then pull the candy mixture out of the pan using the wax paper. Set on a cutting board, then use a clean sharp knife to cut the mixture into squares, or use mini cookie cutters to cut out attractive shapes. If you’re not serving the candies right away, store them in an airtight container in layers separated by wax or parchment paper.
Right before serving, pour some strawberry-flavored sugar (or cane sugar, or regular granulated sugar) onto a shallow plate and roll each piece of candy into the sugar to coat completely. Serve immediately: as the sugar-coated pâtes de fruit stand, the sugar will moisten and eventually become wet and drippy, which makes for a less attractive presentation. You can also eat the pâtes de fruits without the sugar coating, they’re quite delicious as is.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from a recipe by Jacques Pépin.