Toffee Apples have sweet, crunchy shell
Today's recipe is not for the lazy or inattentive cook. It's one of those seemingly simple things that actually involves timing and quick fingers. Some basic candy-making skill helps, too.
Carmen Kiyabu e-mailed in search of a recipe for a Chinese dessert that she described as "sort of like a caramel apple on a plate."
Didn't sound familiar, but it did sound intriguing, and all it took was a peek into a few Chinese cookbooks to find several examples. Most say the dessert is very popular as a sweet treat in China.
The dessert is called Toffee Apples -- or Mandarin Glazed Apples by chef/cookbook writer Martin Yan. It consists of apple wedges coated in batter and fried (that part's easy), then dipped in a sugar syrup (that part's trickier) and dropped into ice water, which hardens the sugar shell. A sprinkling of sesame seeds finishes it off.
Done right, the apples have a sweet, crunchy shell. Done wrong, they get all gloppy and sticky. The key is in patiently cooking the syrup to the point where it is beginning to turn golden. Stop short of that point and your sugar shell won't develop a nice crunch.
All the recipes use similar ingredients in varying amounts. Some call for cornstarch or rice flour in the batter, some use peanut oil for frying, some use sesame oil in the syrup. You can also mix things up by using black sesame seeds. I would suggest, though, that you stick with tart green apples. They hold up to the cooking, and provide a good contrast to the sweet outer shell.
This basic formula is based on "Martin Yan's Feast" (Bay Books, 2003) and "The Chinese Kitchen" by Deh-Ta Hsiung and Ken Hom (St. Martin's Griffin, 1999).
Vegetable oil for frying
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut in wedges
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Fill a small pot with about 2 inches worth of oil. Place over medium heat and heat to 375 degrees.
Fill a bowl with ice water and place near stove.
Combine syrup ingredients in skillet over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, then let simmer, stirring occasionally, until syrup begins to turn golden, or when a small amount dropped in ice water quickly hardens. This will take 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine batter ingredients and whisk until smooth.
When oil is hot, dip apple wedges in batter. Shake off excess, then fry in oil until golden, about 30 seconds. Work with just a few pieces at a time. Drain on paper towels.
When syrup is ready, reduce heat slightly and coat apples in syrup, then quickly drop into ice water (use tongs or chopsticks). This will harden the sugar shell around the apples. Work with 1 or 2 pieces at a time. Quickly sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serves 4.
Nutritional information unavailable.
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