Here's Why Our Food Editors Love Using Freeze-Dried Berries
And they want you to stock up, too!
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When Editorial Food Director Sarah Carey created a recipe for strawberry butter to accompany her Rhubarb-Buckwheat Scones earlier this year, there was an intriguing ingredient. Freeze-dried strawberries were used in place of fresh, which was pure genius considering mid-Spring isn't exactly peak strawberry season. Sarah used the freeze-dried strawberries in her compound butter for both color and flavor. As it turns out, our food editors love them for their "pure, picked-at-the-peak-of-ripeness realness and a taste of summer all year long," says Deputy Food Editor Greg Lofts. After tasting Sarah's strawberry butter, wondered if there were any other ways our food editors like to use this unique ingredient.
"[Freeze-dried berries] are ideal for cake frostings and fillings, whipped cream, and other things where you want the flavor of fresh berries but not the added moisture (they have to be ground first). It's a win-win because they also give a more vibrant color to these things versus fresh," explains Greg.
Don't confuse freeze-dried berries with frozen berries that are often used for smoothies. Berries that are freeze-dried retain the same fresh flavor and nutrients that you would get from eating a freshly picked berry. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all available freeze-dried, as well as other fruits such as pineapple and dragon fruit. Freeze-dried berries can be purchased online at Amazon or in retailers such as Target and Trader Joe's.
Sarah especially loves using them for baking. "We grind the freeze-dried berries and use [the powder] to flavor and color frostings and glazes. We toss them with confectioners' sugar to dust cookies," she says, but also suggests breaking the berries into small pieces as using them to decorate cookies or gingerbread houses. For Greg, freeze-dried berries are also a taste of nostalgia. "[Freeze-dried berries] are also delicious (and fun) to eat right out of hand. The texture reminds me of the astronaut ice cream I remember eating at the National Air & Space Museum as a kid."
Although freeze-dried berries work in frostings and fillings, smoothies, and milkshakes, they're not perfect for everything. "They aren't something I would just fold into yogurt or oatmeal in lieu of fresh berries. Not sure that texture would be enjoyable," Greg explains. Sarah emphasizes that freeze-dried berries are, most certainly "not a replacement for frozen or fresh."
If you're looking for a natural alternative to food coloring, an eye-catching garnish (you can grind the berries and turn them into a powder for dusting), or simply want a healthy sweet snack, then stock up on colorful freeze-dried berries.