Chefs wait all year for berries so good they can be eaten by the fistful. Then they get bored and do something else with them. “Even when produce is in season, it’s fun to prepare it in more than one way,” says William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves in SF. Enter semidried berries. From chile-coated strawberry snacks at Lalito in NYC to blueberry-studded couscous at Tusk in Portland, OR, oven-drying is chefs’ simple method to get a longer life and a new texture out of berries. Werner’s versions are chewy—a bit softer than a dried apricot—with a plump, juicy consistency. He uses them all over his menu, adding them to tarts with raw berries or tossing them into arugula salads. Occasionally he’ll cook them for less time to preserve their moisture (great in long-baking cakes); other times they go longer so they have more bite (nice for granola). “Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes you forget to set a timer,” Werner laughs. “That’s the beauty of it.”
Seven Things To Do With Dried Berries
- Throw on your morning yogurt
- Fold into muffin batter
- Toss with cooked grains
- Scatter over salads
- Dip in chocolate
- Freeze into ice pops
- Chop and add to energy bars
Recipe: Oven-Dried Strawberries
Toss 1 lb. strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large, and 2 Tbsp. raw sugar or granulated sugar in a large bowl and let sit until berries start to release their juices, 25–30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 185° (or the lowest possible setting, which may be 200°). Spread out berries on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a nonstick baking mat and bake, rotating baking sheet about every 30 minutes, until darkened in color and dried out around the edges but still slightly juicy in the centers, 3–31⁄2 hours. Let cool on baking sheet.
DO AHEAD: Berries can be dried 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Makes about 11⁄2 cups