Chocolate-covered caramel apples keep Halloween sweet
Wednesday, October 24, 2001
There's something wholesome about apples. They manage to convey an aura of healthy goodness even when they're dripping with toffee and chocolate.
No excuses are needed for the chocolate-dipped caramel apples in Alice Medrich's new book, "A Year In Chocolate: Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts." They are a fine treat to make for Halloween, or any time of year, to eat off the stick or cut into wedges to serve at table.
Medrich, founder of the Cocolat chocolate shops and a food columnist, lives in Berkeley, Calif. Two of her previous books won James Beard awards for cookbook of the year.
Although chocolate is a year-round passion, she writes, and she eats it every day, her experience has taught her that "excess may be the stuff of chocolate fantasies, but restraint is sometimes the secret ingredient."
Bearing in mind that "too much of a good thing (yes, even chocolate) can overwhelm an otherwise splendid dessert," in certain recipes she'll call for the delicate use of what she calls just "a whisper," "a slick" or "a little burst" of chocolate.
The book groups recipes by the four seasons; the chocolate-dipped apples are a fall suggestion, putting a new twist on an old favorite.
Homemade vanilla caramel and really good chocolate raise the old-fashioned caramel apple to the status of a fine confection to be sliced into wedges and savored at the table, Medrich says.
Other tips: "Choose crisp juicy new crop apples that are sensational to eat in the first place. In general, I like sweet but tart Braeburns and Fujis, and the freshest Jonathans, each in their own time.
"But the flavor and quality of apples change from week to week during the season so I often preview several varieties before choosing. I always sample the 'new' antique varieties revived by local farmers while I'm at it.
"There is no need to temper the chocolate for this recipe if you are willing to keep the apples in the refrigerator, which keeps them firm and fresh, anyhow."
Medrich points out that the apples make pretty and delicious gifts. "Make the full batch of caramel even if you want to dip only 8 apples. Leftover caramel keeps for ages. Simply reheat to dip more apples or dilute with cream to make caramel sauce."
The amount of caramel the recipe makes can coat up to 16 apples, Medrich says. The leftover caramel will keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 months.
In addition to the ingredients, to make this recipe you'll need a candy thermometer, a long-handled silicone rubber spatula or wooden spoon and 6 to 8 popsicle sticks.
Chocolate-dipped caramel apples
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon vanilla extract
6 to 8 small to medium size cold apples
1 pound chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 to 6 ounces chopped toasted nuts, optional
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey and salt in a heavy bottom 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a spatula or spoon until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the inside of the pot with a wet pastry brush or a wad of paper towel dipped in water. Cover and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Rinse the spoon or spatula before using it again later. Uncover the pot and wash the sides once more.
Insert a candy thermometer without letting it touch the bottom of the pot. Cook, uncovered, without stirring until the mixture reaches 305 degrees Farenheit, 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer and keep it hot until needed.
When the sugar mixture reaches 305 F, turn the heat off. Stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the heat back on under the pot and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 250 F, about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the caramel to a smaller pot or heatproof bowl deep enough to dip the apples. Cool for 10 minutes.
Impale each apple on a stick. Holding the stick, dip an apple into the caramel, allowing the excess to flow back into the pot. Set the apple on a sheet of wax paper. Repeat to coat each apple.
If the caramel gets too cool it will slide entirely off the apple! If necessary, reheat gently (without simmering), then continue to dip. Let the dipped apples set for until caramel is cool and firm, at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate them.
Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring frequently until almost entirely melted. Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted and warm, not hot. Dip each apple into the chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to flow back into the bowl. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Set the dipped apples on tray lined with wax paper. Refrigerate to set the chocolate, keep the apples fresh and crisp, and keep the chocolate from discoloring.
The apples can eaten off the sticks or sliced into wedges to serve at table.
Makes 6 to 8 apples.