Sugared fruit is fruit which has been covered in a light dusting of sugar. It is often used as a decorative accent for holiday displays, and some cooks produce sugared flowers for this purpose as well. It is important to distinguish sugared fruit from candied fruit, fruit which has been cooked and stored in a syrup which slowly pushes the water out of the fruit, replacing it with sugar. Candied fruit is also sometimes called crystallized fruit. Both types of fruit are fully edible, and they can be excellent decorations for cakes and other dishes.
To make classic sugared fruit, you will need fruit, very fine sugar, a sieve, egg whites or meringue powder, a paintbrush, and some waxed paper. Start by washing and drying the fruit; some popular fruit choices include grapes, citrus, figs, cherries, and plums. If you are using the sugared fruit as a decoration, you can brush it gently with raw egg whites; otherwise, you should use pasteurized meringue powder mixed with water. Gently sieve the sugar over the fruit, making sure to coat it evenly, and then allow it to dry completely before use.
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Traditional sugared fruit is perishable, although the sugar can help preserve it. Ideally you should make it the day you plan to use it, and you should keep it refrigerated. You can also use edible flowers like nasturtiums, roses, and violets to make sugared flowers, which look especially fetching on wedding cakes. When made well, sugared fruit and flowers have a lightly frosted, elegant look which complements a range of baking projects.
Crystallized fruit is a bit more ambitious. There are a number of different styles of crystallized fruit, ranging from fully candied fruit which needs to soak for weeks or months in sugar syrup to lightly crystallized fruit which can be made in about a day. You can certainly make your own crystallized fruit, and you can also purchase it in a store, especially during the holiday season when candied and crystallized fruits are extremely popular.
To make a basic crystallized fruit, heat two cups of water and one half cup sugar for every pound (approximately half kilogram) of fruit. Bring the sugar and water mixture to 223 degrees Fahrenheit (106 degrees Celsius) and then pull it off the stove and allow it to cool. Lay out the fruit or flowers which you want to crystallize in a flat pan, and slowly pour the syrup over them, trying to jostle the pan as little as possible. Cover the pan with a damp cloth and allow it to stand for at least nine hours before dumping the contents into a sieve and allowing them to drain and dry out, leaving a dusting of fine sugar crystals behind on the fruit.