Clementine Pâté de Fruit

Clementine Pâté de Oops

Clementine Pâté de Fruit or Fruit JelliesAren’t these cute? It’s too bad they suck.

I was so excited to attempt my first pâté de fruit. A couple weeks ago, when I was visiting Austin, Texas, I found a clementine pâté at a little place called Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. Borrowing a phrase from Paula Deen: It knocked my socks clean off and into the washer. I bought a piece for myself and a piece to send to Julia, who joined me in raving about it. I came home wondering, “Why can’t I make that myself?”

I’ll tell you why.

I looked at many recipes before I got started: here and here and here and here, for instance. Most noted very clearly that the results would be softer than commercial fruit pâté. I also saw plenty of comments from readers saying, “I tried to make pâté de fruit once, but I wasn’t satisfied with the texture.” So what I did was kind of like listening to a bunch of people saying, “I stuck my fork in that light socket and it hurt” before I went ahead and stuck my fork in the light socket. Twice. What you see above is my first attempt (for which I adapted this recipe) and just below is my second attempt (using this method), which did not set at all. It’s not even syrup. It’s the worst kind of sludge. Even my fetching heart-shaped jellies are way too soft, and I find them completely — guess what? — unsatisfying. The flavor isn’t anything to shout about either. It’s okay, but nothing like the concentrated astonishment of the clementine pâté I bought in Austin.

There are recipes out there that explain how to make candy-store-perfect fruit jellies. Kaela pointed me to these Gems at Pastry Methods and Techniques. Marisa noted these lovely Passion Fruit and Vanilla Bean candies from Always Order Dessert. But, despite my tendency to make something I like over and over again until I get it right, I’ve decided to leave these pretties alone. I don’t want to devote so much time to techniques that call for commercially packaged fruit purée (though I’d hope you could substitute homemade), hard-to-find varieties of pectin, corn syrup, and so on. I don’t aspire to be a professional pastry chef or confectioner. Now more than ever, I want to use local fruit and keep things simple — with the exception of an occasional, insanely complex marmalade, because we have to do what we love, right? So if you love pâté de fruits and you want to make them yourself, don’t do what I did and go sticking your fork in any old light socket. Pay close attention to other people’s experiences, do the research, and lay in the supplies you’ll need to ensure a good result.

Myself, I’m going to wait until summer and try for an earthier version of fruit pâté. Plums, apricots, peaches, any kind of pomme (apple, pear, quince) — so many fruits can be made into paste or “fruit cheese” by simply cooking them down until they provide a satisfying, toothsome bite. (If only there were a more appetizing term than “paste” or “cheese.” Do you know another?) I am still beautifully haunted by the Crab Apple and Wild Damson Cheese posted by Gloria at Laundry, Etc. last fall. If you visit her blog, you can peek under the lid.

Crab Apple and Damson Fruit Cheese

Photo by Gloria Nicol at Laundry, Etc.


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  • Reply deb April 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Dang! I was rooting for you.

    • Reply Shae April 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm

      Thanks, Deb. I gave it my best shot!

  • Reply kaela April 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I asked ex-pastry-chef Hubs and he had no idea what I was talking about. He says it’s a “specialized” pastry chef thing. Ah, well. That explains it then (not).

    I’m with you on the paste & cheese. It’s up there with curd. Who was naming this stuff?? Gak.

    • Reply Shae April 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Even pâté makes me think of liver. And paste? We’ve all known since kindergarten that we’re not supposed to eat it. What can we do about this?

  • Reply Jenni April 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Howdy:) So glad you stopped by to check out the PdFs at my place. I am the first to admit that they can be a real pain to make, especially when wanting to use fresh fruit puree. This is because the water and sugar content can vary wildly from season to season, shrub to shrub, vine to vine, etc. But you probably already knew that!

    Sorry you found the guys that you made unsatisfying. Maybe you can reduce your jar o’orange sludgy stuff, hit it with some lemon or lime juice for a little zing and then serve it over vanilla ice cream or panna cotta or something. :)

    • Reply Shae April 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

      I think it’s the niftiest thing that you found your way back here and left such a thoughtful comment. Thank you! If I ever do decide that I can’t live without homemade pâté de fruit, you will be the one that I turn to, for sure. I know what you mean about the particularities of fruit only because I have favorite trees for making Meyer lemon marmalade. It has to be the best tree at the right time of year! Thanks, too, for the advice on unsludging my sludge. I will see what I can do. :-)

  • Reply Dawn April 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I’m so sorry these didn’t work out for you! The first ones certainly are attractive. While I’d like to say that I will learn from your experience, the truth is I’m much the same and will probably stick a fork in the light socket as well. I seem to learn more from object lessons than from what others try to tell me.

    • Reply Shae April 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      Oh, Dawn, don’t do it! Or, if you are going to do it, stick a plastic fork in the socket, instead. I know you don’t want to use packaged puree, either. Maybe you can use one of the pastry chef’s recipes but take only the risk of subbing your homemade? Not that I have any investment in knowing how that turns out or anything. ;-)

  • Reply Julia April 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    You are wonderfully brave for laying down the fork, Shae. I agree with you, once it gets to be a precious procedure I slowly back away, and choose to rely on special treats like that I might get in the mail from a really wonderful person! Lucky me, that stuff was the bomb!

    • Reply Shae April 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm

      Thank you, Jules. Now we just need to master the paste! And rename it, too.

  • Reply tigress April 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    oh shae! i so hate when kitchen shenanigans are unfruitful. :( but thanks for letting us in. and i do so want to make gloria’s fruit cheese. i had my first fruit cheesy experience with membrillo last season. i thought it came out bad (julia can attest to that!) but overtime i realized that it actually came out quite good. any chance that your little cuties will toughen up? – most hearts do! ;)

    • Reply Shae April 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      Tigress, I agree that every heart deserves a chance, but these remained squishy and sad for many a day — both the ones wrapped up in the fridge and the ones I abused by leaving them neglected and unprotected on the kitchen counter. Poor things. But there’s always a bright light. Doesn’t Gloria’s project look divine?

  • Reply Sunchowder - Wendy Read April 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I love your description and experience! I have never tried to make a fruit “paste”, I would love to, but time just doesn’t permit yet. Thanks so much for sharing your story Shae!

    • Reply Shae April 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      Thank you, Wendy! When you get to the paste, I know you’ll do a good job of it. I hope to hear the tale.

  • Reply caroline April 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    i still think it’s really mysterious, and I don’t totally understand WHY it didn’t work right. Was it the pectin or the puree? I’ve used those commercial fruit purees before, back in the day when I still worked in restaurants, and I would think that if you took a homemade puree, reduced it by about half on the stove, and then put it through a chinois sieve you’d have almost the exact same thing as a store bought (oh wait… i mean, also put it in a silly cardboard carton with a palm tree and ugly font, then it would be like commercial). So… was it THAT part, or the PECTIN? darn, i have so many questions!

    I will follow your lead and put down the fork though. I was thinking about making them because I have a ton of oranges lying around… but wasting them would be annoying.

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse April 7, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    But they are so pretty! I agree, “paste” and “cheese” are not the most appealing words for what you’ll be making. Maybe membrillo will be your success story.

  • Reply Gloria April 8, 2011 at 12:08 am

    I read somewhere that your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room! Well whoopeedooo, there’s nothing better than being talked about by your favourite people. In the UK fruit pastilles are a mainstream confectionery that I once OD’d on as a child, so now can’t stand them. Those little hearts do look fab and make me want to make some.
    I did make some fruit leather using some leftover crab apple, damson puree. It is still rolled up in greaseproof paper in the kitchen and will come in handy for a photograph sometime. Not entirely sure it was worth the days of drying out though.

  • Reply meg April 10, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Sorry they didn’t turn out! Agh. They are cute (1st batch) and I’m sure you’ll come up with something clever for the results of round 2!
    I’m been intermittently obsessing about Gloria’s crab apple/damson cheese since I read it too!

  • Reply Sylvia November 5, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Hello, Shae! Could you still give me the recipe for those wonderful things in the shape of hearts from your first photo? Even though you say they’re nothing like it, I’d love to try it!

    • Reply Shae November 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Hi Sylvia! I’m afraid the best I can do is point you back to the links in the post — they’ll take you to the various methods I tried, as well as the more professional methods that would surely yield better results. I didn’t write down a step-by-step recipe of my own because the end product just wasn’t worth the effort. They are cute as anything, though, aren’t they?

  • Reply PepperReed March 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I wonder if you could add them to a food dehydrator to get the texture you’re looking for (if the next batch doesn’t work out).

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