Dried fruit and nuts

Dried fruit such as currants, seedless raisins and sultanas must be thorough cleaned at source. It is a false economy to buy lower grade fruit contaminated with stalks, stones and other foreign matter as the task involved in cleaning is too great. However these fruits are usually supplied in boxes and as a result of storage and transportation the fruit forms strong blocks. To break up the fruit it is normal to put the deboxed fruit through a breaker and washer (a minimum of water is used so that the fruit does not become too soft). The "washed" fruit should then be used without delay. Some biscuit manufacturers use contractors to break and wash their fruit.

The size of the fruit is important and this is determined by coating the number of berries per kilogramme.

The point of considerable importance in fruit pastes, like fig and date, is cleanliness of the fruit prior to processing. The presence of sandy gritty particles is particularly unpleasant as are also pieces of pip or stones (prunes and dates).

It is common for pastes, particularly prune paste, to contain preservative. This is usually sorbic acid which is permitted to a level of 1000 ppm (0.1%).

The most commonly used nut used in biscuits is desiccated coconut. The coconut is shredded into coarse, medium or fine pieces and is dried to less than 3% moisture. In this condition it is very stable in storage. problems will arise if bags have been damaged and moisture of the coconut has increased. In these conditions a soapy rancidity may develop and in extreme cases the coconut will become black with mould. The smell of the coconut is a good indication of quality.

Other nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts are usually used as knibbed pieces. They have been shelled, heat treated to stop lipase activity, and kibbled to the desired size. It is important to make some sort of assessment of the particle size and the presence of pieces of shell. All nuts are very prone to oxidative rancidity so should be stored in a cool dry place and used without delay.