A friend of mine visited recently and her 10-year-old future chef begged me to make sugar-coated fruit that’s all the rage online. He called it tanghulu, a popular Chinese fruit snack served on bamboo skewers. Think fall candy apples or French pommes d’amour in which fruit is coated in a layer of sugar that’s been heated to the hard crack stage.
It’s fun to experiment but the types of fruit best suited for this recipe are ones with low water content or with a firm exterior and texture. Think skin-on apples, blueberries, strawberries, grapes and unpeeled kiwi or segments of citrus with the membrane still attached as opposed to peeled watermelon and pineapple. The sugar coating somehow intensifies the flavor of the fruit itself without being overly sweet.
This version requires some attention to technique but mostly is tons of fun to make with kids or for parties. As for the sugar water, be very careful as you watch it get it to a rapid boil and use a large enough pot so there’s no overflow. Ideally, a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer would register 300 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve dipped fruit in less temps ranging from 280-300 degrees but it’s crucial for the sugar water to boil to the hard crack stage in order to create a glossy hard coating, which is the main draw, but the layer is thin enough you won’t have to have your dentist on speed dial as you enjoy. A tumble of the finished candy fruit would be beautiful atop a cake or custard tart. — Kim Sunée
Glazed candy fruit
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
About 3 pounds fruit such as two kiwis, one pound strawberries/blueberries, a dozen grapes, etc.
• Rinse and thoroughly pat dry all fruit. Skewer fruit and set aside on a large sheet pan lined with wax paper. Add ice and water to a large bowl and set aside. In a large pot set over medium heat, add sugar and water. Allow sugar to dissolve without stirring. Carefully swirl pan to help sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil and cook mixture until a candy thermometer reaches 290 to 300 degrees; this should take five to ten minutes and syrup should be thick and a light caramel color. Test mixture by carefully dipping a heatproof spoon in ice water and then into the syrup; if coating hardens immediately the mixture is ready. If not ready, continue to cook until temperature reaches 290-300 degrees F.
• Turn off heat and carefully dip skewered fruit, one by one, and coat with the sugar mixture. Place in water bath and continue with remaining fruit. When finished, drain the fruit and place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Coated fruit can be stored, covered lightly in plastic wrap and store in fridge.
Note: If the syrup gets too hard or cools down too much so that the coating isn’t hard, gently reheat the syrup. For easy cleaning if your sugar hardens in your pot or on your utensils, add water to pot and bring to a gentle boil. The sugar will melt.