A wickedly delicious candy apple starts with the right apple. With their slightly tart flavor, the McIntosh apples used for preparing last week's apple dumpling recipe makes them a good choice for crafting candy apples. Granny Smith, Jonagold and Braeburn varieties are also excellent options, as are Gala apples, particularly toothsome paired with gooey, buttery caramel. Besides good apples and a good recipe, making candy apples requires an accurate candy thermometer for success and diligence for safety. If overcooked, the syrup intended for swirling apples turns into an unusable mass. If undercooked, the syrup won't stick to the apples. In addition, sugary liquids become very, very hot during cooking, so if children are involved in the project, keep a close eye on both the children and the syrup. You can always opt out of the need for a candy thermometer altogether by melting pre-made Kraft brand caramels on your stovetop or in the microwave oven, a trusted way to make caramel apples for generations. Candy apple time is here, soon to be followed by Halloween and other delights of fall. If this is your favorite time of the year, don't let it get by you too quickly. Savor autumn, degree by degree. Measure its joys, day by day. And, if you've got the teeth, take a meaningful bite of the season.
Use only good quality firm apples that are free of bruises and soft spots. Choose apples that are not overly sweet or soft in texture. The popsicle or lollipop sticks used for holding the candy apples must be strong enough to support the weight of the apple, plus the candy coatings.
Caramel and sugar syrups will not stick to apples that are coated with wax. If you have access, purchase apples from a farmers' market, where they're apt to be free of wax.
(The natural, edible wax found on apples sold in the supermarket allows apples to be harvested earlier and stored longer.) If you cannot locate wax-free apples, remove the wax by either quickly dipping the apples in boiling water, or by scrubbing them in a solution of lemon juice and baking soda. Whichever method you choose, be sure apples are rinsed, drained and thoroughly dried before using.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 medium sized wax-free apples
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
Wash and dry apples thoroughly. (If necessary remove wax on apple using one of the methods listed above.) Remove stems from apples. Insert a popsicle or lollipop sticks into the end of each apple until it feels secure; set apples aside. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Attach a candy thermometer to the sides of the large, heavy saucepan so that the bulb does not touch the bottom of the saucepan. Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup, milk and salt in the saucepan and bring to a boil, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture reaches 246 degrees (firm ball stage), about 30 to 40 minutes.*
Remove pan from heat; stir in vanilla. Tip pot at an angle and using one apple at a time, slowly turn apple in caramel to coat evenly. Holding apple over saucepan, allow excess caramel to drip off; scrape bottom of the apple lightly with the blunt end of a knife. (If desired, roll the apples with chopped nuts while caramel is still hot.) Place dipped apple on prepared pan to cool. Repeat with remaining apples. Any leftover caramel may be poured onto a lightly buttered baking pan and cut into small squares to make caramel candies. Makes 6 servings. *Kitchen Ade Note: To prevent scorching, stir caramel occasionally while cooking. Do not over stir, or the caramel will crystallize. If caramel forms any overbrowned (not burnt) lumps on the bottom of the pan, strain caramel through a fine mesh sieve into another saucepan before using. If caramel becomes too thick, gently reheat. If caramel burns, it cannot be used and you must start over.
Recipe source: Kraft Foods
Preparation: 10 minutes.
Total: 1 hour, 20 minutes (including refrigerating to cool)
5 medium (1 1/2 pounds) apples, washed, well dried
1 (11-ounce) bag Kraft Caramel Bits (unwrapped), or 1 (14-ounce) bag Kraft Caramels (wrapped)
2 tablespoons water
5 wooden pop sticks
Insert one wooden pop stick into stem end of each apple. Cover large plate with waxed paper; spray with cooking spray. Set aside. Place caramel bits in medium saucepan. Add water; cook on medium-low heat minutes or until caramel bits are completely melted, stirring constantly. Dip apples into melted caramel until evenly coated, spooning caramel over apples if necessary. Allow excess caramel to drip off. Scrape bottom of apples; place on prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Store left over apples in refrigerator. Makes 5 servings, one apple each. Easy Microwave Melting: Place caramel bits and water in medium microwaveable bowl. Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes; stir until caramel bits are completely melted.
4 to 6 medium sized wax-free apples
4 to 6 wooden popsicle or pressed cardboard lollipop sticks
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Red food coloring
Wash and dry apples thoroughly. (If necessary, remove wax using one of the methods listed above.) Remove stems from apples. Insert a popsicle or lollipop sticks into the stem end of each apple until it feels secure; set apples aside. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Attach a candy thermometer to the sides of the large heavy saucepan so that the bulb does not touch the bottom of the saucepan. Over medium-high heat, heat water, sugar and corn syrup, until sugar dissolves. Allow syrup to boil until it reaches 300 degrees on thermometer (hard crack stage).
Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon and enough food coloring to achieve desired color. Holding the apple by its stick, dip it in the candy, tilting the pan at an angle and rotating the apple to cover it completely with a smooth, even layer. Lift apple out of the candy, twirling it over the saucepan to remove excess; set apple on prepared baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining apples. (If syrup starts to cool, gently reheat.) Makes 4 to 6 servings, depending on size of apples. Use candy apples within 1 to 2 days. Kitchen Ade Note: To make candy apples with Red Hots candy, heat 1 (6-ounce) box of Red Hots with 2 tablespoons of water and proceed as directed above by boiling syrup to 300 degrees. Depending on size of apples, you should have enough syrup to coat 6 to 8 medium sized apples. When cooking candy syrup use extreme caution. Mixture will be very hot.
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