Caramel Apple Turon (Filipino Apple Spring Roll)

Early Spring is now a season I really look forward to with its promises of patio brunches, beautiful people watching, and the ability to wear something more flattering than a poofy jacket paired with chapped skin.  But Spring during my college years wasn’t as…”Spring-y”.  Most student groups plan their largest events during these months and for me, I somewhat dreaded spring as it meant back-to-back meetings planning event after event.  However, Spring also heralded the start of Bake Sale season as groups sought to fund events and as an equal open diner, this was open season for all things carby.  Sure there were the usual cookies and brownies (in varying shades of chocolate) but the real treats were the cultural delicacies: the orange, sticky Indian Jalebis that had to be washed down with tea, the Chinese Moon Cakes, the Arabic Baklava, and when you hit the jackpot and stumble on an all out ten item dessert buffet?  Well…makes you forget the next five planning meetings on your calendar.

During my years organizing for my local Filipino group (shoutout to PSA Minnesota!), the delicacy that stood out as uniquely ours was the turon: soft bananas rolled in sugar, wrapped in Spring Roll wrappers and fried until golden brown and bursting with hot caramelized sugar.  They were quintessential merienda food, totally Bake Sale-able and till today the sight of a cheap aluminum pan filled with them takes me back.
Nowadays, there are plenty of other variations: “Halo-Halo” turons filled with jackfruit, coconut sport, and red beans, chocolate-smothered creations, purple yam-stuffed monstrosities.  I will say that nothing really replaces the original but this time around, I looked to create one with a Midwestern spin as I plan to head back to Minnesota to host a 400-person dinner (more details here!).  This one, adapted from Oggi, I Can Do That, utilizes caramelized apples instead as Minnesota is one of the leading apple breed “developers” in the nation (the Honeycrisp was developed there!).   Try it out either “baked” or fried (student organizer, desk jockey, or otherwise) and welcome Spring with the appropriate amount of pomp and sugar.

INGREDIENTS:

*Makes 3 – 4 turons
3.5 tbsp. butter (remember, the grass-fed variety [I use Kerrygold] DOES make a difference)
3-4 tbsp. brown sugar
2 red Gala apples, cored, diced into 1/2″
3 lumpia/Spring Roll wrappers
Zest of 1 orange
1 sprig of rosemary

METHOD:

1) Melt butter over medium-low and set aside a teaspoon for brushing later on.  Add in the sugar and stir until melted.  Resist the urge to just spoon it straight into your mouth. a) it’ll burn, b) you’re missing the point of the recipe.
2) Add apples and rosemary, lower heat.  Cook for ~15 mins. until caramelized, stirring to avoid sticking.  The apples will release liquid so a good measure of when it’s about done is when most of the liquid is gone, the apples are soft and dark brown, and a nutty caramel perfume permeates the room.  Let cool slightly and make sure apples aren’t too wet since the liquid can tear through your wrappers.
3) Spoon about a tbsp. of the apples and a pinch of orange zest into the corner of one of the wrappers (orient the wrapper so it looks like a diamond).  Roll tightly about halfway, fold in the side corners, and continue rolling.  Moisten the tip (…) with a bit of water and seal the edge so it doesn’t fall apart.  Repeat until you run out of apples.
4) Brush the outside with your reserved butter (re-melt it if necessary) and bake at 400F for ~18 mins. until golden-brown and crispy (don’t worry if one bursts, it still tastes good).  Alternatively, you can also deep fry it since baking it w/ butter brushed on it isn’t exactly any cutting down the fat.
5) Here’s the most important part: Pair w/ vanilla ice cream.  And I mean GOOD vanilla ice cream.  Don’t get that bodega/corner store crap that’s mostly water and turns into ice crystals after a few days.  Get that FULL-FAT GOODNESS.  I mean…you’re eating a sugar-laden treat.  Might as well do it justice.
NB: If you’re feeling ambitious, try making a miso caramel sauce to drizzle over your creation or flambeing your apples if you’re making these as part of a class or live demonstration (people love fire).
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