Raw Food Dehydrator Use
With a raw food lifestyle, many of us still want the crunchy, crackers or bread that we used to eat with cooked meals. In the raw food world, the way of achieving that is by using the dehydrator. After the blender and food processor, unless someone gets into juicing, the dehydrator is often the third piece of kitchen equipment that someone purchases when they decide to live this lifestyle.
There are several dehydrator brands out there, though for longevity, wear, and ease of use generally, the Excalibur brand is the standard used by most raw food enthusiasts. It comes with 4, 5 or 9 trays, and the simple dial or digital read variety. As a single female, I first purchased the 5-tray thinking that would work for me. For just a few dollars more, I could have purchased the 9-tray, and would have if I had known that truly living this lifestyle, I was going to be filling up a 9-tray easily many times over. Teaching classes as I do, now I have both a 5 and 9-tray. If you’d like to purchase one, you can buy one at a good price via my affiliate link: http://www.tinyurl.com/nhgxx3 , and they’ll ship it direct to your door.
I receive a good many questions about using the dehydrator. It is fairly straight forward. The trays come with a porous mesh sheet on them. You can purchase teflex sheets (made of pliable glass) to place on these trays for those recipes/items wet enough to drip through the mesh. This would be most bread or cracker recipes, fruit leather recipes, and such recipes as tortillas or corn chips, and the like. The general concept is that you put the teflex sheet on top of the mesh sheet and tray, pour your recipe mixture onto the teflex sheet either all spread out as one, or into rounds for tortilla shells, or other shape you may want, thin enough to dry thoroughly in under approximately 12 – 15 hours. This means that the crackers, bread, tortilla shells, chips, burgers, other types of patties, or whatever are about 1/16 – 1/4 inch thick, depending upon your purpose/desired end result, and the length of time you are looking to dry the item(s).
I’ll use crackers as an example to explain the process. I usually spread the entire sheet (a single recipe will fill anywhere from three to all nine sheets typically depending on how much you make) at 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. You can spread with a spoon, standard spatula, or I prefer a pastry spatula for ease of spreading. Once this is complete, I place them in the dehydrator on the 105 degree setting (I’ll talk more about that in a minute), and let it dry this way for half of the entire time (for crackers, often about 12 hours total, so half would be about 6 hours) I expect to dry for the recipe to be complete. And, by the way, in a wetter climate, like where I live, it will take more time to dry, than in a drier climate – you adjust for that simply by paying attention to your item(s) as they are finishing up. At about the half way mark of drying time, you flip over the crackers straight onto the mesh sheet (the teflex sheet will now be on top, sticking to a wet/semi-wet cracker bottom). In a swiveling, rotating motion, you peel up the teflex sheet from one corner, and it usually comes up, using this motion several times, with little or no cracker material stuck to the sheet (anything that does stick to the teflex can be re-added to the cracker and smoothed out before placing it back into the dehydrator). This is when you want to score the crackers into square or triangle shapes to make it easier to break apart into usable portions when they’re done. Whatever you use to score, I recommend a dull, flat item, like the back edge of a simple table knife or the side edge of the pastry spatula, so that you avoid cutting your mesh sheets. Once this process is done, just place the crackers back into the dehydrator to finish drying, until done. You do want to make sure that you dry them sufficiently so that when you put them in a sealed container, rather than getting moldy, they will last for at least a month (if you don’t eat them all first).
Going back to the temperature of 105 degrees, since the most delicate enzymes are killed in live food at 118 degrees, and because the dehydrator temperatures aren’t exact, to ensure that the food maintains the enzymatic benefits of live food when you eat it, we usually set the temperature at 105 degrees. Occasionally, you will see a recipe that instructs you to start the recipe at 125 or 145 degrees for an hour or two – this is starting with a cold dehydrator, since it takes time for them to warm up to the 118 degrees initially. When starting at a higher temperature, you just need to keep an eye on it, or set a timer to remind yourself so the you remember to go back an adjust the temperature appropriately to keep the food enzymes alive.
Most of the bread recipes for dehydrators, I find to be to thick and hard. The best one I’ve found, as it tastes good, and is pliable, though thin (like a flat bread consistency), is a bread recipe developed by Igor Boutenko. He used to have it as a stand alone, though now, from what I learned from Victoria Boutenko recently, it has been incorporated into the Boutenko family’s latest book, ‘Raw Family Signature Dishes’. You can purchase their book directly from their website: rawfamily.com (I really like their ‘Green For Life’ Smoothies book too! – more on those another blog post). Anyway, if you have any additional questions about dehydrator use, drop me a question or comment here at my blog: http://www.askchefallie.com, and I’ll be happy to respond to you shortly. And, please visit the rest of the site for other additional helpful information, recipes, tips, tricks, and food tidbits. Service to support your best health is my goal, and so just let me know when you are curious about something related to raw foods.
All the best, Chef Allie