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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Making Friends - with the nature of things - Fruit Wafers

Green Apple Wafers, made using classic method

"Funny that.... Friendships..."     -  some actor on friendships

Last night, I was hanging out with my very good friend Kari from Chef and Steward and her friend Bev. You know us girls, getting together, talking fashion, diet, newest lipstick, with high pitched giggles and having pink feathery pillow fights..... NOT!!! I am sorry guys to rain on your fantacy, but when girls get together they hardly ever have pillow fights! :)) Some of the most profound conversations, selfless acts of care, and best advice come from Girl friends and are usually the happenings of a girls' hangout.

In fact this is a very good chance to bust some myths about Girl Friends... so read on and enjoy :)

You know it has become a common thought that women cannot be good friends! That women don't get along! That women are jealous creature! That women only stab each other in the back...! It has also become common to think that only men are capable of making good and real friendships. I think it is a personal choice - that is sexless - how people are as friends. There are those who will have a huge smile when with you and turn around to talk nonsense about you. Then there are those whom you know you can count on when no one else comes through. It's a personal choice. We all choose the type of people we want to be and the type of friends we are.

But hey let me remind you of the power of sisterhood. There is nothing like knowing a person understands you, that a friendship is safe and not threatened by misunderstandings and silliness. There is nothing like knowing there is someone out there who cares and who will be there regardless the stupendous requirement of the task. And certainly nothing like being big enough to go beyond 'I', when a she is in need. There is nothing like sisterhood. Sisterhood has empowered cities, changed worlds and in cases changed the course of history. Let's not let the foolishness of TV 'cat fights' and 'pillow fights' or 'Jerry Springer' plant the seeds of a thought that could not be further away from true. Let's not chase illusions. Let's look at the women around us - beyond the CHANEL bag, the Mac lipstick and the Louboutin shoes. Let's look beyond the penthouse, the car, and the network. Don't search for yourself in people you meet, we are all separate and different people. We are colourful. So let's not look for 'I likes' and 'I hates'. Let's stop creating labels and images of a friend and rather look for the person and find the beauty and goodness within each person.

Make friends with the nature of that person. Make friends with the nature of things and you will find yourself richer.  

Strawberry Wafers ready to mingle in the oven
On the note of the nature of things, fruits are naturally good and sweet. They are your palates best friends. A life without fruits is like that without friends... without fruits the world is colourless, less fun and less sweet. And like friends, fruits come in different shapes, and flavours. While it is always a pure pleasure to munch on the fabulous goodness of raw fruits, fruits are still very versatile and lend themselves to so many applications, making your food all the more varied in flavour, colour and texture. Since fruits are naturally sweet, subjecting them to heat will result in caramelisation, which intensifies their sweetness and adds a hint of caramel to the equation. In terms of texture, the caramelisation process will also add a brittle touch, making them even crunchier and complimenting the eating experience. It is then, only natural to make wafers out of fruits. Wafers are by definition - a very thin, unleavened, crisp layer (disk, cracker or cookie) that can be savoury or sweet. Wafers are served alongside food as to compliment the flavour or texture of foods, or they can be used as base for toppers such as in the case of the beetroot wafers in the foie gras bonbon recipe. Well, when cut very thin, subjected to heat, fruits too can recreate the definition of wafers. Unlike other wafers, fruits are all natural all the time. There is no additions, flavourings, colourings...etc involved. Fruit wafers are the healthiest wafers and can make for a fabulous snack. Fruits will enhance the flavour of many concoctions and desserts, and can replace the cookie or cracker wafers. Not only that, but fruits are naturally colourful, and have various shapes, sizes... all of which will help you use them as embelishment, or decoration to foods or cakes. These embellishments, unlike their sugar made counter parts - are actually tasty and won't leave you over sweetened. All in all, I would say, making fruit wafers is a skill you want to learn, and use more often. They give you that extra edge, and an innovative option where presentation is concerned.

Making Apple Wafers
Fruit wafers are very simple to make, there are many ways, but all are applications to the basic method. Basically, you will start by slicing the fruits as thin as possible. This is a place where a mandolin slicer comes in handy. The thinner the wafers the better as they crisp better than thicker wafers. However in the case of strawberries for example - or fruits that are more watery than firm - a little thickness is ok, as when the juices run dry, a super thin wafer will hardly have anything left. Different fruits, react differently to subjection to oxygen. Some fruits oxidise, and therefore become darker in colour like Apples, Bananas, pears...etc. These fruits will have to be brushed with acidulated water (water where some sort of acid is added). The most natural acidulated water, is water with a few drops of lemon. The fruits will have to be brushed with this water as soon as they are sliced to prevent blackening. However, and even when acidulated, the fruits will have to hit the heat ASAP, or they will end up darkening. Therefore you will have to have the oven preheated, and the sheets lined. You will slice, brush, line on the sheet and bake straight away. This is the basic fruit wafering technique, there are no additions, no oils, nothing. There is only the drying of the sliced fruit in the oven.
You might want to add to the fruit wafers in terms of flavour and texture, so you can sprinkle them with spices for instance. A classic example to that is apples and cinnamon. You might want to add sweetness and more caramel, like sprinkling green apple tops with icing sugar and letting the sugar react to the liquid in the apple and the heat, creating more caramel and more browning and therefore brittleness. As you see the options are endless.

Brush fruits that are likely to blacken with acidulated water to reserve their colour

Once the fruits, are sliced, brushed, flavoured if desired, you will have to line them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, and bake them in a 160F oven until they are crisp and lightly browned. I have also found that if you place the fruits on a cookie cooling wire rack (that is heat proof) and place them in the oven, the results are much better as they dry out faster. If you do not own one, don't worry, you can go for the first option, it will just take a little longer.

Strawberry Fruit Wafers 

These wafers can be stored in an airtight container, in a dry, cool, and dark place for up to 2 weeks.

Serving Suggestions

  • These wafers can be used in Salads for presentation and fruity flavours. 
  • You can top a cheese disk (like camembert, or brie...) with these wafers and then drizzle with honey for an interesting cheese platter item or snack.
  • You can use these wafers to garnish desserts, such as cakes, mousse cups, cheesecakes, and even cookies with the help of a little edible adhesive like piping gel or royal icing.
  • You can stack them on a platter and serve them in the place of nuts when entertaining.
  • You can make assorted sweet wafers, place them in small bags and send to school in the lunch box for a healthy snack...etc
I will be posting my best loved Caramel Apple cake with Apple wafers shortly to show you an excellent example for using these wafers as garnish. So make sure to drop by again and check it out ;) Meanwhile here are 
links using fruit and vegetable wafers for you to check out:

When making wafers some fruits produce cool designs on the baking paper,
leave to dry and use these papers for scrap books or even as background for your photos :)

Last night as I hung out with the ladies, I learnt that Bev is sadly leaving Dubai, and embarking on a new phase in her life. We were talking about new journeys with all the excitement and anxieties attached. We were talking about friendships, reminiscing the old and anticipating the new. Driven by all the good people she met through the time spent in Dubai, we each described people who touched our lives, including those we never met but still had a huge influence on who we are. You see friendships are not conditional, and friendships can happen in a moment. It is only when we see beyond the surface and choose to accept the essence that we make friends - be it making friends with a person, or making friends with a situation or a past, or most importantly making friends with ourselves. I cannot tell you how powerful and profound the conversation was, but I can tell you how deeply appreciated these friendships are to me.

I wanted to share these thoughts here today, because they made me feel the love. I thought today, I want to use this post to thank all my good friends, and I have been blessed. I thought why not spread the love, and remind you to take a moment, to stop what you are doing for a second, and to appreciate "the good people we meet". While you are at it, it is never a bad idea, to let people know how much you appreciate them. Share the love....

Bob Marley's 'No Woman No Cry' is a song I love and a song that always reminds me of friendship and good friends, so I will conclude this post on this note ...

Lucy you are missed.

Love & peace to y'all...