Thin and crackly or soft and smooth, glazes are the perfect finish for tons of fruit-based desserts. There are a few different versions of clear glaze you can use depending on which type of dessert you're working with.
For a harder clear glaze, like candy-apple glaze, use a hard-candy topping. For a softer, thin glaze to finish fruit-topped cakes, use simple syrup.
Clear doesn't mean flavorless-- you can add a few drops of extract or liqueur to sweeten the glaze. You can also replace the water in the recipe with a clear or light-colored fruit juice.
Before getting started on your glaze, first complete your dessert recipe.
Simple syrup is the go-to glaze when you want to add a glossy sheen to fruit without changing its texture. Simple syrup works with any fruit, soft or firm, large or small.
To make a simple syrup glaze:
Heat equal parts water and white granulated sugar over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves, and begins to develop a syrup-y texture. Then bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low as soon as the syrup starts to boil and continue to cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Next, take the glaze off the stove and let it cool. Place fruit in a mixing bowl and pour the glaze over it, stirring gently to coat. Set the finished product on a wire rack to cool.
The goal of candy glazes is to create a thin and crunchy covering for desserts. Because hot sugar can cause severe burns, the cooking process demands exacting attention. Before cooking, fill two large bowls with ice water and place next to the stove: one to cool your hands should they come in contact with the hot, melted sugar, the other to place the pot of candy in after it reaches the hard-crack stage. Moderately firm to firm fruits, such as strawberries, apples and dried fruits, work best with a hard-candy glaze. Before you begin, skewer the fruit you want to glaze with a wooden skewer.
Add 2 parts sugar, 1 part water and 1/2 part corn syrup to a heavy-bottomed pot, and attach a candy thermometer to it. The ingredients should reach at least halfway up the sides of the pot to provide enough depth to dip the fruit. Heat the sugar mixture over medium heat, stirring until it dissolves. When the glaze reaches the hard-crack stage -- between 300 and 320 F -- set it in the bowl of ice water. Dip the skewered fruit in the glaze as soon as it stops bubbling and place it on an oiled wire rack or sheet pan. Wait about 30 minutes for the candy to set.
A gelatin-based glaze has the shine of hard-candy glaze without the hard crunch. It works well with all fruit.
To make a gelatin-based glaze:
Sprinkle a packet of unflavored gelatin into a bowl over 1/4 cup of cold water and let stand for a minute to bloom. In a separate pot, bring a 1/4 cup of water to a boil and add to the gelatin- mix until it dissolves completely. If you want a sweetened glaze, add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Dip the fruit in the glaze and set it on a sheet pan to cool. Chill the fruit in the freezer until the glaze sets, about 15 minutes. If you want to add another layer of glaze, warm the remaining gelatin in a double boiler and dip the fruit a second time.
Candying is the most comprehensive form of glazing. Best suited for small fruits, such as berries or fruit that's chopped into 1/2-inch pieces or smaller, candying creates a crystalline coating on the outside of the fruit and replaces the water inside the fruit with sugar.
Bring 3 parts water and 1 part granulated sugar to a boil, then add fruit to boiling mixture. Decrease heat to medium-low and cook until the fruit turns translucent, about 40 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the candied fruit to a wire rack and let it cool overnight. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a year.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.