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a very cranberry time of year

Recipe: cranberry pâte de fruits

A few weeks ago, I was picking up product from Robin Chocolates for a shoot. Whenever I go into the production room, Robin offers me samples of her latest masterpiece confections and I usually decline or ask to cut a tiny corner to taste. She always gives me this grin and announces to everyone, “Oh yeah, Jen doesn’t like chocolate!” I’m pretty sure Robin finds this both confounding and mildly amusing, but then she’ll grab a little bag and fill it with goodies for me to take to Jeremy (who is a chocolate fiend). This time, I tried the cranberry pâte de fruit with vodka-and-lime-soaked cranberry ganache, because I’m a sucker for fruit. “Robin, this is amazing,” I muttered into the air while I tried to spread all of the flavors out in my mouth to taste each and every one. I made a mental note that I needed to get in on that cranberry pâte de fruit action.

sugar, cranberries, water, lemon, liquid pectin

line a square pan with parchment paper

then line with another piece of parchment perpendicular to the first to cover the edges

The recipe I used looked so easy… too easy. A short list of ingredients and a few minutes of bubble time on the stove was most of the work. Sadly, my first batch never set and wound up becoming a sort of cranberry spread to distribute among willing recipients. It tasted great, but it was too runny to hold a shape. I really hate when a recipe doesn’t work – especially when I drop a pretty penny on something like organic cranberries. A little research on other pâte de fruits recipes identified the problem.

slice lemon and remove seeds

place cranberries and lemon in a food processor

add water

When it comes to candymaking, temperature is important and a candy thermometer comes in quite handy. As you go higher in elevation from sea level, water boils at a lower temperature. The general rule of thumb is to reduce the temperature by 2 degrees for every 1,000 feet in elevation above sea level. In this case, we want to boil the candy until it reaches 235°F, or at my house it would be 218°F. Rather than the 4 minutes the original recipe nominally tossed out there, it took me 50 minutes to get to 218°F. So there’s that…


put the purée and sugar in a medium saucepan

when the purée reaches temperature, add the pectin

Watching the temperature profile carefully, it increased within a few minutes to 195°F (or 212°F at sea-level which is the boiling point of water). Then it sat on 195°F for a good 40 minutes. You may be tempted when the temperature is so close, but not really there, to just take it off the stove and call it good. But here is what’s happening: the water is undergoing a phase transition from liquid to vapor and it’s going to hang out at that temperature until most of the water has transitioned. Once this occurs, the temperature will begin to rise – slowly – but at least it’s on the move! The candy became more viscous and spattered quite a bit, but I knew this was going to set. Also? Don’t stop stirring, you definitely don’t want this burning onto the bottom of the pan.

pour it into the prepared pan and let it cool to room temperature

once cooled, cut out the shapes

After the pâte de fruit has set and cooled in the pan, turn it out onto a work surface. Blot any excess moisture on the block with a towel. Slice or cutter your desired shapes and set them on a cooling rack to dry. The reason for this is so the rolling sugar doesn’t turn into a runny syrup if it comes into contact with moisture from the candy. I let mine dry for 8 hours mostly because I forgot about them. The sugar stuck just fine and after a day, the white crystals turned red, but remained crystals rather than turn into syrup. I consider that a victory.

let dry on a cooling rack

roll in sugar

So how do they taste? Intensely cranberry-ish, but in the best way possible. These are tart and sweet and ever so slightly bitter which is always going to give you more depth than just plain old sweet. The lemon adds a refreshing perfume and texture. I have to say I really like these confections, but cannot eat more than one a day. They make excellent palate cleansers as well as pretty, jewel-like gifts. Something to do with leftover cranberries or just for the love of cranberries!

a little goes a long way

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Cranberry Pâte de Fruits
[print recipe]
based on this recipe

1 small lemon, sliced with seeds removed
12 oz. fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
6 oz. (2 pkgs) Certo liquid pectin

Line an 8×8-inch square pan with two 8×13-inch sheets of parchment arranged orthogonally so that all of the base and sides are lined. It helps to tape the edges to the rim of the pan lest they curl back on the pâte de fruits. Place the lemon slices, cranberries, and water in the bowl of a food processor or a blender and purée until smooth. Combine the cranberry purée with the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pan. Let boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 235°F (218°F at 8500 ft. or minus 2 °F for every 1,000 feet above sea-level). This should take around 20 minutes at sea-level. It took me 50 minutes at my elevation. Stir the pectin into the mixture and bring to a boil for a minute, stirring constantly. Pour the fruit into the prepared pan and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cut. Turn the block out on a cutting surface and pat dry any excess moisture or condensation. Cut the pâte de fruits with little shaped cutters or slice with a knife. Set on a cooling rack and let dry for an hour or longer. Roll in sugar before serving. If packaging, the sugar will eventually absorb any additional moisture on the pâte de fruits, but if you dry the pieces long enough before rolling in sugar, it won’t become a puddle of sugary syrup. Makes as many as you can get from an 8×8-inch block of fruit gel.

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27 nibbles at “a very cranberry time of year”

  1. uncatim says:

    Oh, I’m making that – & probably not giving very much as gifts. Thanks for the detailed recipe. You have a beautiful knife!

  2. Fiona George says:

    Wow! What an absolutely stunning colour! We don’t grow cranberries in the tropics but I am thinking of trying this with grumichama (a Brazilian tropical cherry) or jaboticaba (another Brazilian grape-like fruit or some of our native Australian fruits that are quite astringent and full of pectin. I will let you know how I go.

  3. Fiona George says:

    Wow! What an absolutely stunning colour! Thinking of trying this with some of our Australian rainforest fruits that are deep red, quite astringent and full of pectin – will let you know how I go.

  4. Sol de Dezembro says:

    This looks so easy and yummy…
    Do you know if it’s possible to make this with another berries?

  5. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says:

    These are so neat! I love little jellies like this, but never make the on my own. Great recipe!

  6. Kristin says:

    They are gorgeous! And what an arm workout.

  7. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Perfect for now but a bag in the freezer would make gorgeous valentine gifts!

  8. jill says:

    My salivary glands are in overtime right now. These look gorgeous! I am always grateful for our ability to “research on other pâte de fruits recipes”…

    So the lemon rinds are left on?

    I’m seriously going to ask my sister to make these!!! thanks!

  9. sue obryan says:

    Beautiful. Your work is really wonderful and so inspiring, so glad I found your blog. I can’t wait to make.

  10. Estuaire | says:

    […] are among my favorite fruits.  These adorable pâte des fruits confirmed that for […]

  11. MaryZ says:

    I bought a giant bag of cranberries at Costco and was deciding what to do with the extras after I make my cranberry relish for Thanksgiving…now I know :)

  12. newyorker says:

    This reminds me of my recent attempt at making quince paste. The process for making it is somewhat similar. I also flubbed the initial batch by not draining the boiled quince well enough and then wasn’t able to reduce the puree to the right consistency (well, maybe I could have, but it would have taken hours!) – ended up with some lovely quince jam instead.

  13. Eileen says:

    I don;t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this before! A SUPER intriguing idea. Maybe I will actually have something cranberry on the Thanksgiving table this year… :)

  14. yellowfish says:

    Oh wow, I’ve had all kinds of cranberry dishes but have never seen one like this- these sound so tart and delicious, now I want them!

  15. Nithya says:

    Hi Jen !

    I’ve been following your blog for a really long time now. Its beautiful how you write and photograph the beauty around you – be it food, people or nature. I love your frank and honest attitude to writing. I’ve tried many recipes from your site to spectacular results – this particular recipe is just amazing to look at ! Going to try these soon..

  16. Links: Pumpkin Syrup, Cranberries, and Winners | Food in Jars says:

    […] Swimming in cranberries? Make pate de fruit! […]

  17. Anita says:

    Found you from Food in Jars – this looks amazing! I know what I’m making to give as Christmas presents! Thanks so much!

  18. Kris Watson says:

    Could the bitterness come from the pith of the lemon? I might peel off the zest and supreme the lemon flesh, discarding the white pith. I am considering heading for a 24 hour grocery store.

  19. jenyu says:

    uncatim – oh, it’s a Shun and I LOVE IT! Soooooo sharp and amazing – it glides through food (and your finger if you aren’t careful!)

    Fiona – I think you can probably do this with almost any fruit. I want to try with some other goodies :)

    Sol de Dezembro – yes, I think so! With other berries you may not need as much sugar – I’m not sure. Many times people start with purée (no seeds), but I rather liked the seeds in this one.

    Katrina – me too! I finally did it though and it wasn’t bad!

    Kristin – yeah, right!? Should be MUCH faster at sea level.

    Abbe – yep! I think if you freeze the cranberries now, they will work perfectly come February.

    jill – yes, the lemon rinds are left on – all of the lemon except for the seeds. It’s really lovely!

    sue – thank you, you’re such a dear!

    Mary Z – :)

    newyorker – yes, I’ve made membrillo (quince paste) before and it took FOREVER! This is MUCH easier ;)

    Eileen – Oh, I hope you made it!

    yellowfish – it’s quite different and so nice and refreshing.

    Nithya – thank you! xo

    Anita – these definitely make lovely gifts!

    Kris – it’s only slightly bitter and it’s actually nice, not overpowering or off-putting. Leave the lemon in its entirety (except the seeds) in the processor. It comes out beautifully.

  20. Leigh says:

    Is there an alternative I can use instead of parchment paper?

  21. jenyu says:

    Leigh – Wax paper or foil may work, but not a guarantee. Perhaps oil them lightly?

  22. joey says:

    I love your blog! Randomly stumbled upon it and got hooked! Is it possibl to replace the cranberries with another fruit? Strawberry perhaps?

  23. jenyu says:

    joey – I imagine you can make it with any fruit, but what I don’t know is ow much pectin to use because different fruits have different levels of their own natural pectin. It’s high in cranberries, I believe. Probably best to do a little searching on strawberry versions of pate de fruits, to see if the ratios differ?

  24. Thanksgiving Traditions – Squash, Cranberry, and Rolls | cookingwithhope says:

    […] go with the rolls, we had a lovely brie from our local cheese monger and cranberry pâtés. The pâtés were my first foray into candy making, which was messier and more difficult than I […]

  25. Anneke says:

    Looks great – can I use frozen cranberries instead of fresh.

  26. jenyu says:

    Anneke – absolutely!

  27. Links: Pumpkin Syrup, Cranberries, and Winners - Food in Jars says:

    […] Swimming in cranberries? Make pate de fruit! […]

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