photo by Kim Sunée
My friend, Katie, visited recently along with her son Satchel, a 10 year-old future chef and basketball pro, who loves to get in the kitchen when he’s in town. This time, he strongly suggested we make sugar-coated fruit.Tanghulu, a popular Chinese fruit snack that’s all over the internet, apparently; I had never attempted to make it before but Satchel (better-versed in all things sugar-coated than I) immediately pulled up some videos and we got to work.
This version requires some attention to technique but mostly is tons of fun to make. As for the sugar water, be very careful as you watch it get it to a rapid boil, and make sure to use a large enough pot so there’s no overflow. Ideally, a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer would register 300°F. I’ve dipped fruit in lower temps, ranging from 280° to 300°, 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. And the future pro-ball player/chef approved!
It’s fun to experiment but the types of fruit best suited for this recipe are ones with low water content. 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.
NOTE: You’ll need a candy thermometer and metal skewers
- Rinse all fruit and pat dry. Skewer fruit and set aside on a large sheet pan/tray lined with parchment 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 (to avoid sugar crystallizing). Carefully swirl pan to help sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil and cook mixture until a candy thermometer reaches 290° to 300°; 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 300°-315°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 paper-lined sheet pan. Coated fruit can be covered lightly in plastic wrap and stored 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. To clean any candied sugar stuck to the pot or skewers, add water to pot and bring to a gentle boil to melt the sugar.