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The joy of deep-fried Mars bars

It is amazing what you can do with a professional deep fat fryer. The only limit is your imagination. Visiting the north of Scotland, passing through Edinburgh, I decided to try the deep-fried confectionery which they sell in fish and chip shops there.


Deep-fried Mars bars are the most famous, but, as I say, you can really apply this method to almost any comestible. They sell deep-fried Bounty, Snickers – probably most of the Mars range, as well as triangles of pizza, which are dunked straight into the fryer without batter.

First, what’s a deep-fried Mars bar like? The bar is dropped into a glutinous batter which sticks to it before the fry-man plunges it into the roiling depths of the oil, heated to something like 190 degrees Celsius. A minute or so later, the operative retrieves the bar, which is now puffed-up and golden, using a sort of giant slotted spoon, like a flat sieve on the end of a long metal handle.

The Mars bar undergoes some fascinating changes as a result of the frying process. The batter serves its traditional purpose in cooking, which is to protect the outer surface of the food – in this case the “thick, thick” milk chocolate coating, which might otherwise melt and run off. The inside of the bar is transformed in texture. You bite, gingerly – it’s hot – into the bar, and as you sink your teeth in you find that the caramel and nougat filling have deliquesced under the heat into a luscious, lip-smacking sort of hot mousse. This contrasts deliciously with the crisp and light batter exterior, which also provides a robust hint of slightly degraded cooking oil.

Anyway, after my friend and I had sampled some of the professional products, we rushed back to the place we were staying full of ideas. This was a highland lodge equipped to cater for large parties, and so the kitchen was fitted with one of those professional fryers, sunk into the granite-topped work surface. I mixed up a batch of light batter – a beer batter with a teaspoon of sugar might work quite well, or you could even try a tempura mixture for a feather-light effect.

Once you shove in your Mars bars and Bounty bars and witness for yourself the miraculous effect of the seething oils, you can’t help wanting to lob in any other foodstuffs that come to hand, just to see what happens. It’s a bit like a chemistry practical. Provided there’s some sugar or starch in the object to be fried, the high-temperature oil bath will cause a nice caramelising reaction in the outer surface. We tried all sorts of things, even lettuce – with disappointing results, I’m afraid: lettuce doesn’t respond well.

Readers who have yet to enjoy a skilfully deep-fried Mars bar or other confectionery may pooh-pooh the idea. It’s crude or babyish, they may say. Certainly there is something about deep-frying that appeals to children. And you could perfectly well give this dish to children as an occasional treat – though not, obviously, those poor children who were reported at the weekend who had already suffered strokes at age six and eight because their parents had so grotesquely over-fed them. The adult sceptics should try it, however, before they sneer. A deep-fried chocolate product presented with intelligence could form part of a grownup dining experience. Stick it on a big white plate with a few stray berries, a dusting of icing sugar and a trickle of crème anglaise and you have a perfectly respectable dessert for a posh restaurant.

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