The fruit known as Buddha’s hand is such a beautiful wonder. I love seeing their irregular and curious variations at the market. I’m likely to be found scratching their skin to smell their sweet and fragrant perfume. However, I really couldn’t think of many ways to use them, as they have very little fruit and no juice. One day my former sous chef Carol, who is a brilliantly talented library of pastry information, came in with candied cross sections of Buddha’s hands. I have been doing this, with delight and gratitude, every winter since. When candied, the Buddha’s hand has a very delicate and subtle flavor. I love using these as a part of a plated dessert, and I sometimes let them dry overnight on a cooling rack set over a baking pan, and toss them in sugar to crystallize, so that I can decorate tarts and cakes with them. And don’t you dare throw the syrup away. A little splash into an evening cocktail will put a smile on anyone’s face.
- Yield: 3 CUPS (645 G)
- 1 large Buddha’s hand
- 8 cups (2 kg) water
- 3½ cups (700 g) granulated sugar
- 0.33 cup (100 g) corn syrup or glucose syrup
- 3 tbsp (45 g) lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Rinse the Buddha’s hand under cool running water. Cut the “fingers” off the fruit so that there is a nice, round stalk left. (Reserve the fingers for another use, such as making infusions and compotes.) Use an electric or Japanese mandoline or a very sharp knife to slice the stalk into very thin slices; set aside.
- Combine the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for about 5 minutes, until completely combined, to make a syrup. The syrup should still be clear and thin. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Transfer the syrup to a 9-by- 13-by-2-in (23-by-33-by-5-cm) baking pan or glass baking dish. Immediately lay all the slices flat in the syrup; use tongs, as the syrup will still be hot. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it in the oven. Allow the Buddha’s hand slices to poach in the syrup for 11/2 to 2 hours, until the slices are translucent. When you pick up one of the slices, it should be floppy but still keep its shape.
- Remove the foil from the baking pan. Return it to the oven and continue to bake for 20 minutes, or until the syrup has a velvety, maplesyrup consistency. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the fruit and syrup to cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the Buddha’s hand slices and syrup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.