Where is Marie Antoinette when I need her? Fruit this beautiful deserves fine linens, candelabras and a concerto, don't you think?
Have you ever been lulled by someone's storytelling? When I was in Patricia Wells' cooking class in Paris, one of my classmates told me that when I made it to Rome, there was a dessert she wanted me to order at a particular restaurant. I have yet to make it to Rome, but her description has stayed with me.
She described a grand presentation of fresh fruit with a shiny candy coating. She said that it was expensive, but worth every penny because the experience and flavor was so unique. When does one get the chance to crunch through a candy shell on raspberry?
The fruits glisten like jewels. They have a satisfying crunch when you bite into the candy shell and they are sweet and juicy and delicious. The high temperature of the sugar syrup seems to blanch the fruits a bit and the natural fruit flavors transform into something like a liquor. The raspberries were divine. The strawberries were ridiculous. The maraschino cherries looked like perfect glass ornaments and simply tasted like more. I'd eat one and then another. I couldn't resist and you won't be able to either.
A note worthy tip: I found Royal Harvest's Nature's Maraschino Cherries with Stems at Costco. They are colored and flavored with natural concentrates and real sugar, which results in beautiful cherries with great flavor and texture.
I have not been able to get beautiful sugar shell fruit out of my mind and one day I noticed a recipe online at Epicurious under the title, Glaceed Fruits. I did not use any ginger in my preparation and I used Reynolds Wrap non-stick foil.
I cannot underestimate how wonderful it is to be able to rely on a digital candy thermometer for this recipe. I didn't have to squint and get close to the pan, trying to read the thermometer through the steam. Instead I could see where I was every step of the way. This model even names each phase (soft boil, soft crack, hard crack) as your mixture reaches that temperature - genius.
I dipped the strawberries, raspberries and mandarin orange segments with wooden skewers. I dipped the grape clusters with metal tongs and I dipped the cherries carefully by the stem.This is absolutely worth doing. The fruit tastes incredible, the crunchy sugar shell is delicious and the "looks too beautiful to eat" rating is off the charts. My only regret? The fruit juices dissolve the candy coating over night. This is not a dessert that you can do very far in advance. 6 hours? I suppose you could try refrigerating them, but the humidity in the refrigerator might effect the candy just the same. That said, I know that I will be making this sugar shell fruit again and again. It is too spectacular not to. I will just have to time my masterpiece accordingly.
I hear Mozart in the distance, do you?