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Beijing Apples

Makes 6 to 8 servings

 

We ate this incredibly dramatic apple dessert in Beijing, China, where it is a specialty. Apple chunks are coated with a thin cornstarch-and-egg-white batter, deep-fried, and then tossed into a wok with a hot caramel syrup. The syrup-coated apples are piled onto a serving dish and hurried to the table before the caramel sets. Each diner picks up a chunk of apple with chopsticks and quickly dunks it into a bowl of cold water. The water sets the syrup into a thin shell of caramel candy. When you pop the chunk of apple into your mouth and bite down, the contrast of the hard crackly shell with the soft hot apple is extraordinary. Because the caramel syrup sets quickly, you must eat this as fast as you can. The experience is exquisite.

Be sure to use a crisp apple; it can be on the sweet side. Goldrush, Fuji, Braeburn, and Gala are all good choices. You can cook the apples hours ahead and set them aside at room temperature. Just before serving, make the caramel syrup and fry the apples quickly to recrisp and reheat them. Provide each diner with chopsticks and have two or three rice bowls with cold water ready on the table.

 

Batter
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 large egg white
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 medium crisp sweet or tart apples
   (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds), quartered, cored, peeled,
   and each quarter cut crosswise in half
Peanut oil for deep-frying

Syrup
3 tablespoons oil
1 cup sugar

1. To make the batter, whisk together the cornstarch, egg white, salt, and 2 tablespoons water in a large bowl until smooth. Add the apples and stir well with a large rubber spatula to coat.

2. Heat 1 inch of oil in an electric skillet or heavy medium saucepan to 350 degrees F. Have ready a large wire rack set over a baking sheet.

3. Before adding the apples to the oil, stir them with the spatula again to be sure each piece has a thin coating of batter. Add about one third of the apple chunks one by one to the oil. Stir the apples with a fork and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the apples with a slotted spoon and set them on the wire rack to drain. Cook the remaining apples in two batches, bringing the oil back to 350 degrees F. each time. Set the apples aside at room temperature until serving time. Strain the oil, discarding any bits of batter, and return it to the pan.

4. When you're ready to serve the dessert, place an ovenproof dessert platter in a warm oven (200 degrees F.), and reheat the oil to 375 degrees F. While the oil reheats, prepare the Caramel Syrup: Place the 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet or wok and set the pan over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes foamy. Cook, stirring constantly, until the syrup becomes a rich caramel color.

5. Just before the caramel is ready, fry the apples in the reheated oil for about 1 minute, or until they are a deep brown.

6. Immediately remove the apples with a large slotted spoon or strainer and add them to the hot caramel syrup. Don't dawdle; you must work quickly here. Stir and fold the apples and syrup together with a slotted metal spatula or spoon, quickly pour the mixture onto the warmed dessert platter, and take it to the table right away.

 
Buy the Book!  

A Is For Apple
More than 200 Recipes for Eating,
Munching, and Cooking with America's Favorite Fruit
By Greg Patent and Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Broadway Books, June 1999
Trade Paperback, 288 pages, $15.00
ISBN: 0-7679-0203-3
Recipe Reprinted by permission.

 

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This page created September 1999


 


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