Oven dried strawberries are something I’ve been wanting to try for ages. This week, almost serendipitously, the ideal opportunity presented itself with enormous kilo punnets of fragrant, perfectly ripe and juicy strawberries available at the markets from our Victorian growers. I’ve successfully dabbled in using my oven to make crisps before. My first foray was into oven baked beetroot crisps, followed by toffee drizzled apple slices, and more recently mandarin which although gorgeous on their own were pounded to a fine dust and incorporated into a spicy salt and sweet citrus sugar. Initially, I will confess, I was a little dubious as to how I would fare oven drying sweet, delicate strawberries. Would they disintegrate into a pulpy, jammy mess or worse lose their lovely vibrancy and crisp to an unappetising muddy colour?
Sometimes it’s best to not over think and complicate things. The best and most efficient course of action is to just give it a go. With that in mind, I preheated my oven to 100 C fan-forced, lined a couple of oven trays with non stick baking paper, and then cut 500g of washed, scrupulously dried and hulled strawberries into four or five slices each, depending on their size. I didn’t want my strawberry slices to be too thin as I wanted to be able to peel them easily from the paper when dried. I also didn’t want them to be too thick, as it would take much longer to dry them, and I reasoned, perhaps more likely to discolour. Like Goldilocks I wanted them to be just right. Some recipes advocate the soaking of the fruit in an acidulated water bath to prevent discolouration, but I felt immersing the berries into water just before drying was a little counter-intuitive so skipped this step.
Instead, I simply arranged my sliced berries in a single layer on my trays, sprinkled them with a little sea salt to enhance their natural flavour and popped them in my preheated oven for just over 2 hours. To assist with air circulation, I propped my oven slightly ajar for the entirety of the process, the proven and old-fashioned Nana way with a wooden spoon placed just inside the base of the door, and checked them every hour or so. After one hour they were just beginning to shrivel around the edges and were ready to be carefully flipped over.
After a little over two hours they were almost perfect. I simply switched off the oven and once again leaving the door ajar with my trusty spoon, left the trays in the oven to slowly cool and went about my day. After another couple of hours when I returned home, my berries were perfectly crisp and dry. Those plump, juicy strawberries had dehydrated to about a third of their original size and delivered an intense flavour hit. So sweet and simple to make, and voted a resounding success by my taste testers. So much so I had to prise away the bowl from their greedy little hands to save some for my morning granola. Sadly, I haven’t had the opportunity to incorporate them into my baking yet. I’m thinking they would make a wonderful addition to a crumble topping or folded through a morning muffin batter.
Oven Dried Strawberries
Makes approx 200g
500g fresh strawberries
1 teaspoon sea salt
PREHEAT oven to 100 C fan forced. Line two oven trays with baking paper.
WASH and dry strawberries, hull to remove leaves and stem, then using a sharp paring knife cut each strawberry into 4 or 5 even slices, depending on the size of your fruit.
ARRANGE slices in a single layer on the oven trays. Sprinkle with sea salt.
PLACE trays into the preheated oven and dry for two to two and a half hours, leaving the oven door slightly ajar to assist with air circulation.
CHECK after about one hour and carefully flip over the strawberry slices.
AFTER two hours, strawberries should be almost dry. Turn off oven and leaving the door slightly ajar, allow the strawberries to continue to dry in the cooling oven for another hour or so.
REMOVE from trays and store in an air tight container or jar.