If you’re Armenian, and you have or had a grandmother, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s only one candy that Nanny had that we didn't reject. Bastegh, or Fruit Leather. Hers was a homemade delight. She didn’t make it often, but when she did, it didn’t last long because it tasted so good! Nanny used the grapes from her backyard vine and extracted the juice- a messy and tedious procedure. To make things simpler, the modern-day cook is wise to use bottled grape juice.
Here’s how to make Bastegh:
3 cups of purple grape juice
granulated sugar to taste (1/4 cup - more or less)
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
Cornstarch, for later use
1. In a large pot, combine the juice and sugar. Heat gently until the sugar begins to dissolve.
2. Slowly whisk in the sifted flour. Be sure the flour is well-blended to prevent lumping. If lumps appear, carefully pour grape mixture through a strainer, discarding any lumps. Return grape mixture to pot.
3. Bring mixture to a gentle boil, stirring constantly.
4. When the mixture begins to thicken, remove pot from the heat. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
5. Place parchment paper on 2 baking sheets. Dividing the mixture in half, spread it to a thickness of 1/8 inch using an off-set spatula, or the back of a large spoon. Allow about an inch or more of the edge parchment paper to show or else you’ll have trouble hanging it to dry or peeling the paper away from the fruit leather later on. (Special note: this is a messy procedure, so spread extra parchment paper around the table to collect any drips.)
6. Allow to set for 24 hours.
7. Hang the fruit sheet(s) on a line to dry - about a day or two. If drying indoors, place parchment or newspaper on the floor - just in case!
8. When the fruit sheet is dry, carefully peel away the parchment paper and discard.
9. Sprinkle cornstarch on the fruit leather to prevent it from sticking.
Cut fruit leather into strips or squares. Wrap the leather around a piece of walnut - or any other kind of nut, and enjoy! Eating it plain is great, too.
Place pieces in a plastic bag, or cover tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator.
Don’t like grape juice? This recipe can be made with apple juice, too.
WARNING: Don't try to make bastegh when it's hot and humid. Trust me, I know. After the bastegh set for 24 hours, I hung the sheets of grape-covered parchment paper, as directed.
Within 20 minutes I noticed purple globs on the tile floor- not a pretty sight! (See above photo for "what not to do".)