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Basi Pingguo (Toffee Apples) Recipe

Chunks of apple dipped in batter, deep-fried, and tossed in hot caramel. Oh, and then plunged into an ice bath. The result? A molten apple interior, an icy candy exterior, and a brand new way to fall in love with Chinese cuisine.
Toffee Apples Recipe
Photo by Liz Barclay

Servings: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes


for the apples:
1 pound|454 grams sweet apples (Fuji, Pacific Rose)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

for the batter:
¼ cup|35 grams cornstarch
¼ cup|40 grams Chinese flour (2 parts unbleached APF, 1 part unbleached pastry flour)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon double acting baking powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or black walnut extract (optional)

for the caramel and finishing touches:
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
¾ cup|160 grams turbinado or raw sugar
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


  1. Peel and core the apples, cut each one into 8 wedges and then cut each wedge in half crosswise to make 16 fat pieces per apple. Place the apple chunks in a bowl of cool water with the lemon juice so that they don't turn brown. (This can be done up to a couple of hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate if your kitchen is warm)
  2. To make the batter, mix together the cornstarch, flour, salt and baking powder in a medium work bowl. Just before you are ready to fry the apples, whisk together the egg, ¼ cup|60 ml ice water, and optional extract in a small bowl and then stir this mixture into the dry ingredients to form a slightly lumpy batter. (Be sure not to mix the batter ahead of time or the double acting baking powder will lose its power.)
  3. To fry the apples, heat about 3 inches of oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Heat your oven to 275°F and have a baking sheet lined with parchment paper ready. While the oil is heating up, drain the apples, pat them dry in a towel, and toss them with ¼ cup flour. Coat a large handful of the dusty apples with the batter. Slide them one by one into the hot oil. Cook these in batches so that they do not stick to one another or cook the oil down too fast, adjusting the heat as necessary. Fry them until they are crispy and golden brown. As they turn brown, remove them with a spider or slotted spoon to the parchment paper and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat with the rest of the apples until all are fried; stash them in the oven if you are not serving them right away. Lightly oil a serving platter and place the bowl of ice in the centre of the dining table.
  4. It is easiest to see how done the caramel is if it is made in a light colored pan rather than a dark wok, so pour the oil into a large stainless-steel frying pan. Reduce the heat under the pan to medium before adding the sugar, ¼ cup|60 ml water, and lemon juice. Cover the pan for a few minutes so that the steam washes down any sugar crystals.This will prevent the caramel from seizing up. Remove the cover and stir the liquid occasionally with a rubber spatula until the sugar syrup thickens and starts to change color. Stir constantly to keep the sugar from burning as it turns a golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat, quickly mix in the lemon zest and sesame seeds, and then toss in the hot fried apples, coating them as completely as possible. Empty the caramel-coated apples onto the platter and rush them to the table. Have your guest pluck pieces of the apple, dunk them in the ice water and enjoy. (The chinese name for this translates to "pulled thread apples.") When you pull the hot apples out of the pile with your chopsticks, you should try to make the caramel threads as long and as thin as possible dipping the apples in ice water.

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