|This is what should NOT happen when dipping caramel apples.|
Lined up on their wooden sticks, I had ten apples prepared for the plunge: five were destined to be candy coated, while the other five would go for a swim in the caramel. (P.S. Finding sticks was a project in itself; after searching through several grocery stores, I ended up buying an instant caramel apple kit just for the sticks inside.)
The recipes for each of the sugary shellacs made enough for twelve apples so I cut both of them in half. As they bubbled away on the stove, it seemed as though things were going smoothly. Not for long: ending with a sink full of sticky pots, a melted spatula and enough frustration fuming out of me to liquefy another, my fun fall project had suddenly morphed into an all-out Halloween nightmare. Insert: blood curling scream.
Homemade caramel-dipped apples had been on my mind since coming across Alice’s recipe on her blog, Someone Who Bakes. I could already taste the creamy caramel that was engulfing each of the apples in her photos and immediately bookmarked the recipe. Check out the post here to see how these should come out. While cooking the caramel it looked just as it ought to; stirring away, I imagined light strings of caramel floating behind my apple lollipop as I pulled away from each bite. If only…
After pouring the caramel out to cool, I realized that something was wrong. It was getting too hard too fast. Only a few apples had the chance to be dipped before the caramel refused to stick, just sliding off at every attempt. It tasted good though! Once set, it was like a rock—CRACK—the caramel shattered under the immense pressure that it took to even cut through it. I blame all of this on not having a candy thermometer. I thought I could get away with it, but when it comes to melting sugar to the proper temperature you can’t just wing it; a few degrees can make a big difference.
At least the candy apples came out decent. I ended up only having enough red sugar syrup to dip two of the intended five apples, but those lonely two looked pretty damn fine. Hard and sticky enough to potentially break teeth and crack skulls, they passed the test in comparison to any candy apple I’ve ever tasted. But were these measly couple of triumphs worth all of the red gunk that was caked at the bottom of my pot, dripped into the burners, and spotted along on the counters? Not really! The disaster with these was more in the mess than the end result.
Woman’s Day, October, 2010
- 12 small red delicious apples
- 12 clean twigs, thin wooden dowels or candy sticks
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup each light corn syrup and hot water
- ¼ tsp liquid red food color
• Line a large baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper. Wash and thoroughly dry apples; remove stems. Insert twigs firmly into stem ends.
• Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan, continue to cook, without stirring, until mixture reach 250 degrees F (wipe down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally to prevent crystallization). Continue to cook until 300 degrees F, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove syrup from heat and swirl in food color, tilting saucepan, until blended. Let mixture settle for a minute until bubbles slow down.
• Holding an apple by the twig and tilting pan, dip and swirl apple until coated. Lift apple and gently twirl over saucepan, letting excess drip back into pan. Place on prepared baking sheet, twig up. Repeat with remaining apples.
• Allow apples to stand at room temperature until candy coating hardens, about 1 hour. Candy apples can be made up to 1 day ahead and stored at room temperature.