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Scarfing down a sugary snack without preamble definitely gets the job done, but a little delayed gratification really amps up the satisfaction of certain sweets. These sweets seem to demand a little ritual and thought: Twisting and licking an Oreo, wearing a Fudge Stripe like an edible ring, punching out the middle of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, or folding and nibbling a Fruit Roll-Up into a fruity snowflake.
Fruit Roll-Up connoisseurs hold to a number of schools of thought when it comes to the best method for consumption. Some had avant-garde fathers who'd spread peanut butter over a strawberry Fruit Roll-Up, then re-roll it as some sort of kiddie maki. Traditionalists went with the fold-and-bite method, riddling them with scalloped holes, while fruity origami practitioners folded and shaped Fruit Roll-Ups into three dimensional designs. The Tyler Durdens among us crumpled them into a ball of fruit, just to destroy something beautiful.
Some wrapped Roll-Ups around an index finger while others rolled them into tubes or makeshift straws. Oh, you have not experienced artificial fruit flavor until you've had Kool-Aid through a coordinating Fruit Roll-Up straw.
But for me, nothing could beat Fruit Roll-Ups with the pull-out shapes. Call it a lack of imagination on my part, but I took immense pleasure in gentling peeling out the designs. Sometimes I'd slap them on my arm as a sugary tattoo, though I didn't actually care that much about the shapes themselves. Rather, I had a thing for the negative space they left behind.
However I did have a bit of a preference for the pizza themed Fruit Roll-Ups which came out during the height of Ninja Turtle Mania. I remember dutifully peeling out tiny mushrooms and micro-rounds of pepperoni to place atop the "crust", all while sitting about three inches from the television and hanging on Raphael's every word. Having a crush on a ninja turtle and routinely eating my body weight in strawberry "pizza" probably goes a long way to explain the BraveTart trajectory.
The problem with homemade Fruit Roll-Ups (or their cousin Fruit by the Foot) doesn't have to do with making them, so much as it has to do with giving yourself permission to make them. Look at recipes online and you'll find no one has resisted the urge to transform them from nutritionally abysmal morsels of junk food into naturally sweetened, dietitian-approved health food items.
Healthiness and dessert don't have to be mutually exclusive, but at the intersection of the two, Fruit Roll-Ups become fruit leather. I respect that some people want to cut sugar from their diet, but I don't want a FRINO (Fruit Roll-Up In Name Only). I want a sugar fest in bright, cheery colors that tastes like I remember.
This means following in Fruit Roll-Ups' footsteps and using a mildly flavored fruit for bulk (they use pears, but apples work nicely too), a ton of sugar, corn syrup for plasticity, and a tiny amount of some other fruit for flavor.
Now, if only I had some tiny pizza-topping shaped cutters...
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About the Author: Stella Parks suffers from an unhealthy obsession with recreating the mass produced snacks of her childhood, but ironically is employed by a Frenchman to make the high brow desserts of his childhood. She blogs that dichotomy at bravetart.com and can be followed on Twitter at @thebravetart.