honey caramel apples
November 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
Every year – except for last year, when I couldn’t chew and had to make hot chocolate instead – I find Halloween to be the perfect time to make a fun treat, preferably something I haven’t tried before. A couple years ago I made marshmallows, and this year I thought caramel apples sounded good.
Back in my learning to cook days, I had attempted caramel apples once. I remember it clearly: putting a one-year-old Jade in her stroller, both of us bundled up and walking over the hills under a dark grey sky, through the blowing wind and leaves (this was Germany, after all), and to a store where I bought wrapped caramel candies and a bag of apples. I got home, washed the apples, painstakingly unwrapped each candy and melted them in the microwave, then rolled the apples in it. I set them on a sheet of waxed paper and left them to harden. When I came back a while later I found the apples standing, naked, in a pool of caramel. So much for that; I was so disappointed. Ten years later (not that I know how to hold a grudge or anything), I finally convinced myself to try again.
In the past ten years, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with caramel. And strangely, most of that experience has occurred in the past two months. I’ve made everything from candies to frosting (many times) to a tatin since the end of August. When I decided to make caramel apples, I knew I didn’t want to just unwrap candies; I wanted to make my caramel from scratch. When I began referencing different recipes to check for ratios and to see if there were any particular tricks I should be aware of when dealing specifically with putting caramel on the surface of apples – I didn’t want it to slide off as it had years before – I was surprised to see that nearly every recipe included corn syrup (probably for its ‘sticking’ quality), which I didn’t want to use. We’d be getting plenty of that in the trick-or-treat bag, I figured.
So when I came across a recipe that called for nothing but cream, salt and honey, I knew that was what I wanted to make. It was a risk (would kids eat it? kids have an uncanny ability to sniff out anything that isn’t legit) but I took it anyway. And wow! The caramel, which replaces sugar with honey, does have a bit of a different taste – it’s smooth and natural and has a tinge of that telltale honey tang. It was perfect. And though it did slide off the apples a little, it was easily forgiven. I certainly won’t wait ten years to make these again!
Honey Caramel Apples
You can use any kind apple you like, but I prefer Granny Smith apples for their tart flavor and crisp texture, which is balanced nicely by the smooth, sweet caramel.
My intention had been to drizzle dark chocolate over the caramel, and maybe press in some toasted almonds, but I ran out of time. Next time, for sure!
Makes 6 medium sized caramel apples (I halved it).
6 medium apples, washed and thoroughly dried
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup clover blossom honey
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water (I used a sturdy, steel saucepan instead of bowl) and set aside. Push sticks into the tops of the apples.
In a small saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, heat cream and salt over medium heat just until bubbles begin to surface. Add the honey and stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, continuing to stir constantly; mixture will foam – keep stirring! The thermometer is important because you cannot actually see when the caramel is ready due to the foam. If foam gets too high and threatens to spill out of the pan, turn the heat down a little. When caramel reaches the firm ball stage on the thermometer – about 260º, which will take about 15-20 minutes – remove pan from heat and very carefully and slowly place the bottom of the pan in the bowl of water. Stir the caramel with the pan in the ice bath until it firms up, about 5 minutes or so. When caramel reaches the point that it is thin enough to coat the apples, but thick enough to stick to them and remain opaque, it is done.
Dip apples in caramel, rolling them and spooning the caramel over if necessary. Place apples on the baking sheets to set before eating.
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Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks.