From your very first lemon drop or raspberry lollipop, you understand the allure of fruit-flavored candy, with its sweet-tart complexity of tastes lingering on your tongue.
But have you thought about the inverse of such delights? Don’t add fruit to your candy for more flavor. Make the fruit itself the candy!
This is very easy to do and qualifies as home-made candy or dessert for special occasions or gifts or because you reconciled your checkbook and deserve a happy treat. Candying fruit is more than just dusting them with sugar or spritzing with a glaze, so the most important part of turning fruit into candy is the freshness of the fruit. Look for your favorites as their season opens, then experiment with any of the following recipes.
And you thought strawberries in season couldn’t get any better!
1 C granulated Sugar
¼ C water
16 Fresh, ripe strawberries
Wash the strawberries and dry them very well, using a paper towel to dry off each one. If there’s water on the skin the sugar syrup won’t stick to the berry. Insert toothpicks, lollipop sticks or skewers into the stem end of each strawberry and gently pull the leaves away from the strawberries.
Place 1 cup sugar and ¼ cup water into a small saucepan, clip on your candy thermometer and use medium-high heat to boil mixture until it reaches 300 F (hard crack stage). Turn the heat to the lowest setting.
Quickly but carefully dip each strawberry into the syrup and twist to make sure it’s completely covered; avoid the leaves. Let any excess syrup drip off and set each berry on parchment paper to cool and harden. If you want them to look perfect all around, insert the sticks into a large piece of styrofoam or any stand where they can sit upright until hardened. Be extra careful working with the syrup; it’s extremely hot.
The candied strawberries will take a few minutes to harden and they should be enjoyed within 2 hours, or place them in the refrigerator, loosely covered, if you’re not serving immediately.
CANDIED CHERRIES FOR ADULTS
Like Manhattans? You’ll love these party dessert “candies”.
Recipe by “Cooking Light”
1 1/2 lbs fresh Bing cherries with stems
1/3 C fresh lime juice
1/4 C water
1 C bourbon or rye whiskey
Wash cherries under running water and set aside in a colander to drain for a few minutes. Place fruit in a medium glass bowl or a large jar. Place sugar, juice, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 cup bourbon and bring just to a boil. Pour the hot bourbon mixture over cherries. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 days before serving. Serve in pretty bowls with a tablespoon or so of the liquid. Makes about a dozen servings with 5 cherries each. If you like, garnish with whipped cream or freshly-grated chocolate. Cherries will keep two weeks in the fridge.
Tip: Save the soaking liquid. You can stir it into cocktails or seltzer water for a unique flavor, or drizzle over ice cream or pound cake.
BLUEBERRY CHOCOLATE CLUSTERS
Lovely as a gift for any occasion.
Recipe from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
1 C chocolate chips (dark, milk, or white, but make sure you use real chocolate)
1 C fresh blueberries, divided
Rinse blueberries then spread on paper towels and pat dry. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment. Place a small bowl on the top of a double boiler, over lightly simmering water. Add the chocolate to the bowl, then stir until melted.
Remove bowl from hot water and gently fold in the blueberries. Make fruit clusters by spooning 4 or 5 still-warm chocolate-coated blueberries onto a cookie pan or flat plate spread with wax paper, placing them 1 inch apart. Or you can spoon the mixture into silicone candy molds.
Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Decorate with piped frosting or other embellishment, as desired. Transfer to an airtight container. Will keep fresh in refrigerator for up to three days.
Note: This process, heating the chocolate and coating the fruit, works nicely with other fruit, also. Thinly slice a favorite apple or pear variety, do not pare off the skin, and coat with chocolate, for example. Or gently tumble sweet raspberries or blackberries through the warm chocolate.
By Jean Redstone