Old-Fashioned Halloween Treats: Caramel-Dipped Apples
Old-Fashioned Halloween Treats: Caramel-Dipped Apples

 

One of my favorite holidays is Halloween. Sure, we celebrated All Hallows Eve in Austria, too; but its traditional observance involved leaving out bread and water before bed to help nourish the souls visiting this earthly world while we slept.

So, sweet lover that I am, you can easily understand how I quickly came to prefer the American approach to Halloween when I moved here in my 20s. Even today, I enjoy the candies my children get from their trick-or-treating as much as they do. (Shhh! Don't tell them!)

But, chef that I am, I much prefer to make Halloween treats than buy them. Doing that gives you at least a little more control over the things your kids eat. And throwing an at-home Halloween party featuring homemade goodies helps ensure that they and their friends stay safely at home rather than traipsing through the dark streets.

There are all kinds of delicious things you can make for Halloween parties that both youngsters and grownups will enjoy. In years past, I've shared with you such recipes as bat-shaped cookies, easily made from your favorite refrigerator dough, a shaped seasonal cutter, and some icing; pumpkin pie with fresh cranberry marmalade; and warm chocolate cupcakes with surprising molten centers.

This year, however, let's go back to basics with one of the all-time favorite old-fashioned Halloween treats: caramel-dipped apples.

Dipping apples in caramel is a time-honored way to embellish them during harvest celebrations in many cultures, and the wholesome treats are naturally suited to Halloween parties. The earliest published recipes date from the late-19th or early-20th centuries. Two different basic versions developed: one in which the apples are coated in a creamy or buttery caramel or toffee mixture that forms a chewy coating; and another in which they are dipped in simple nondairy syrup dyed bright red with food coloring to give the apples a hard, glossy candy shell.

I prefer the creamy caramel coating, and am happy to share my version of that recipe here. It's fairly easy to prepare. All you need in the way of special equipment is a candy thermometer that will clip onto the side of your saucepan; and, to insert into the apples, some sturdy wooden sticks, which you can find in many kitchenware shops and supermarkets at this time of year. Take special care when preparing and working with the hot caramel mixture to avoid spattering.

As for the apples themselves, look for any good, crisp seasonal varieties that you like, with a tart-sweet flavor that will contrast well with the sweet coating. If you like, embellish the caramel right after dipping by rolling the apples in chocolate chips or chopped nuts, to make your treats extra-festive.

Have a happy Halloween!

CARAMEL-DIPPED APPLES

Makes about 8

8 organic apples such as Granny Smith, Fuji, Rome, Golden Delicious, or Red Delicious

1 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate chips, chopped nuts, or other garnishes (optional)

Rinse the apples thoroughly under cold running water. With a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, pat them completely dry. Insert a sturdy wooden stick into each apple, pushing it in well through the bottom and toward the stem, leaving a handle at least 3 inches long. Set the apples aside on a baking sheet.

Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add 3/4 cup of the cream along with all of the corn syrup, butter, and sugar, and stir together. Make sure the end of the candy thermometer extends into the mixture. Put the pan over high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 280 degrees F. on the thermometer. At this stage, the mixture should look golden in color.

Remove the pan from the heat. Very carefully, gently stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of the cream along with the vanilla; use extreme caution, as the very hot mixture may spatter.

If using garnishes, put them in soup bowls and set on the counter near the pan of caramel.

While the caramel mixture is still hot, dip the apples into it. Hold one apple at a time by its stick while turning it in the caramel and, if necessary, carefully tilt the pan to cover the apple all the way up to the stick; then, let the excess caramel drip back into the pan.

If you like, gently turn the caramel-coated apple in a bowlful of chocolate chips or chopped nuts to make them stick to the caramel.

Place the apple, stick up, on a nonstick baking sheet or a regular baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining apples. Leave at cool room temperature until the caramel has completely cooled and set.

 

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Old-Fashioned Halloween Treats: Caramel-Dipped Apples

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