Over at the Serious Eats kitchen, we can get a wee bit obsessive. We've been known to spend entire days debating what makes a perfect New England lobster roll. So when we brought the candy apple into our lab, our experiment started at its core: the apple.
We began candying other fruits. Not dipping them in caramel, but candying, bringing sugar water to the right (very high!) temperature. Not for the faint of heart. First up: pears. We figured the firm, skin-on fruit would be a good substitute, and we were right. Some of us even preferred juicy candy pears to candy apples. (No offense, granny smith.)
From there we got a little wacky, turning to our favorite fall vegetables. Candied shallots sound delicious, do they not? Sadly, we'll never know: Fruit must be perfectly dry in order to be candied, and the oil in roasted shallots caused the sugarcoating to slip right off. We were so desperate for squash to work that after blanching slices, we dried them under a fan overnight. But still they exuded liquid. Darn you, squash!
Moving on. We wondered about softer, skin-on fruits like grapes, and were thrilled to find that they worked wonderfully. And what about cherry tomatoes? They are a fruit, remember, and they tasted positively dessertlike after a dip in candy.
Once we chose our produce, we looked to the shell -- hard candy dyed ruby red and often flavored with cinnamon. Kinda boring. It hit us: Juice is nature’s sugar. We tried pomegranate juice. Success! Well, if juice worked, why not something a little tangier, perhaps vinegar? And wouldn't that be a natural fit with tomatoes? Ding, ding, ding! As for the apple, that sturdy old standby, once it was coated in paprika-and-apple-juice-spiked candy, we fell in love with it all over again.
Paprika Candied Apples with Cashews
Candied Grapes with Grape-Nuts
Pomegranate Candied Pears with Almonds
Balsamic Candied Tomatoes with Toasted Sesame Seeds
Follow 'em and you won't get burned!
-- Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from sugar splatter.
-- Use a candy thermometer that affixes your pot.
-- Select a deep pan; the sugar will bubble up.
-- Choose fruit that's ripe not soft -- the stick should stay firmly in place.
-- Wash produce with soapy water; dry well.
-- Tilt the pan while coating, so the liquid is deep enough to cover the fruit.
-- Pull the pan off the burner if the temp gets too high.
-- Brush water down the sides of the pot to prevent candy-ruining crystals from forming.
-- Keep kids out. Molten sugar is no joke.
-- Clean your pot: Fill with water and bring to a boil.