Fruit is often a major ingredient in baked goods. From muffins to pies, delicious fruit can really make or break a recipe! While fresh fruit is often used in baking, frozen fruit is definitely a great alternative. You don’t need to have piles of fresh berries on hand in order to make amazing treats!
Let’s take a look at some tips and tricks to baking with frozen berries below.
Quality of Frozen Berries
Many people think that purchasing fresh berries ensures that you get the best quality and taste berries possible. However, that is definitely not true. Sure, fresh berries can be great, but frozen berries are just as good, if not better!
Frozen berries are picked at the peak ripeness and flash frozen to preserve their taste. All of the nutrients and vitamins are also frozen in the berry, making it as healthy as possible.
On the other hand, you have fresh berries which are often picked before they are ripe in order to transport better. The berries ripen as they travel in a truck rather than on the vine (or bush). By the time they reach their destination, they have diminished in nutritional value and the taste may or may not be there. Fresh berries can be a risky purchase!
So, the next time you question if the fresh berries are your best bet, consider skipping them and opting for the frozen berries which have been preserved perfectly to ensure their quality. What if your recipe calls for fresh berries though? Let’s take a look at how to use frozen instead!
While you may opt to grab a bag of frozen berries right out of your grocer’s freezer, you can also choose to freeze berries yourself for future use. If there is a good sale on berries at the store or you are lucky enough to grow berries in your back yard, an abundance of berries is never a bad thing. If the berries already look nice and clean, abstain from rinsing them as this will just add unwanted moisture to the berries.
Place the dry berries directly into a freezer safe, zippered bag and then put the bag into the freezer. If you are freezing larger berries like strawberries, you may want to remove the green stems and slice them before freezing, making them easier to use later on. Having a freezer full of ready to use berries is a beautiful thing! Now, how to use those frozen berries in your baking…
Do Not Thaw Your Berries
The first trick to using frozen berries successfully in baking is to keep them frozen. You 100% do not want to thaw your berries! Frozen berries are full of excess moisture and when you thaw the berries, all of that moisture pours out. That is why a frozen bowl of berries tends to look like a mushy mess. All that extra water is going to do harm to your baked goods and water down your batters.
Too much water will make your muffins too dense, your pies soggy and your sweet breads not rise. However, if you keep that moisture inside the frozen berries, the berries themselves will stay tender and juicy- that is exactly what you want!
Keep your berries in the freezer until you are ready to use them in your baking. Frozen berries should stay frozen until they are ready to go into the oven!
Toss The Fruit in Flour
If you have ever baked with frozen berries before, you may be very familiar with the “berry bottom.” This is when all the berries sink to the bottom of your baked goods rather than staying evenly distributed throughout every bite. This is something you definitely don’t want to happen.
Frozen berries sink in baked goods because they are heavy from the excess moisture inside of them. As the baked goods cook, the heavy berries slowly fall down to the bottom of the pan as the lighter batter bakes and puffs around them. This problem can easily be fixed!
Before you add the berries to the batter you are making, toss them in a tablespoon or two of regular flour. As the item bakes, the flour will absorb some of the moisture from the berries and keep them in place, holding them up rather than letting them sink to the bottom.
This trick works for any kind of frozen berries and is especially helpful if you are making muffins or quick breads where the frozen berries often fall subject to the frozen berry sink.
Bake for Longer
When baking with frozen berries, you are adjusting the temperature of your baked good from the start. It is common sense that adding a frozen ingredient will decrease the temperature of the batter! Since your baked goods are colder before they go in the oven, you will need to adjust your baking time and bake your items for longer.
The time you need to add will vary depending on what you are baking with the frozen berries. If you are making muffins, for example, you will probably only need 2-3 minutes more baking time when using frozen berries versus fresh. However, if you are baking an entire berry pie using frozen berries, you may need upwards of 10 more minutes in the oven to get the correct texture.
Before you pull your baked goods out of the oven, be sure to check and ensure they are done. Colder fruit means longer time to bake to perfection (and all good things are worth waiting for, right?!).
Increase the Thickener
We already talked about how frozen berries expel water and moisture as they bake. This excess water can have an effect on batters and pies, especially if you are using a lot of frozen berries in your recipe. The more berries, the more extra water!
In order to combat this extra moisture, you should add a thickening agent to your baking or, if there is already a thickener being used, increase it when replacing fresh berries with frozen berries.
The most common thickening agents include cornstarch, flour, tapioca and arrowroot. If your recipe already uses one of these ingredients, consider increasing it slightly to help bind the moisture from the frozen berries as your foods bake. This is especially important if you are making something like a full frozen berry pie.
Lots of berries means lots of water in the bottom of that pie crust- you don’t want it to get soggy! A little extra cornstarch can work wonders to ensure your pie filling sets properly.
Keep it Open
Speaking of pies, if you are using frozen berries or any frozen fruit to bake a pie, you will want to bake the pie with an open lattice top or with no top at all. Keeping the pie open, rather than covered with some kind of topping, will help the excess moisture from the frozen fruit evaporate as it cooks.
A pie crust top can trap that moisture in the pie and make it soggy. Skip the top crust when using frozen berries and opt for a pretty open lattice or no top at all! Your pie will have a much better texture and taste just as great!
Taste Before You Bake
When you bake with fresh berries, you likely pop one or two berries in your mouth before you bake. You should definitely do the same when it comes to frozen berries. Trying a berry (or two) can help you adjust the seasonings in your baked goods to reflect the taste of the berries. If the frozen berries are a little tart, you may want to add a little more sugar. If they are overly sweet, cutting back on the sugar may be a better option.
In the case of pie filling, make the filling as per your recipe and then try one of the frozen berries that is coated in the seasonings. Adjust the spices as needed, adding some more cinnamon, a little lemon juice or maybe just some more berries to enhance the taste.
Once your foods are baked, you won’t be able to make any changes so it is definitely better to do this before placing anything in the oven!
Frozen Berries Aren’t the Answer
Sometimes frozen berries won’t work in your baking. While I’m clearly a fan of using frozen berries in many scenarios, there are a few times when you should stick with fresh fruit. Using berries as a garnish is definitely on of those times.
A frozen berry placed decoratively on top of a cupcake is not going to look as pretty as a fresh berry. The freezing process drastically changes the texture of the fruit and, structurally speaking, thawed berries will never hold up.
A good rule of thumb is to only use frozen berries in baking when they will be cooked or baked. The texture of the berry won’t matter as much once it goes into the oven! Opt for fresh berries when they won’t be cooked. Fresh berries will always be prettier than their frozen counterparts.
There are so many benefits to using frozen berries rather than fresh berries in your baking. Frozen berries have a more consistent taste and texture when compared to fresh berries. They are often the more economical option as we all know how expensive fresh berries can be, especially when they are not in season.
Frozen berries have a much better shelf life while fresh berries may start to mold after a day or two of purchasing. So next time you start to bake a recipe that requires berries, consider using frozen berries. Follow these tips and tricks and you’ll have baking success!