Caramel makes me nervous because of a few bad experiences in my baking past, where things that were supposed to be gooey and chewy ended up with the consistency of something you could break a tooth on.
Armed with a candy thermometer and healthy dose of patience, I made these last weekend as a Halloween treat to share with my co-workers. I followed the instructions (almost) exactly, and got to use my new vanilla bean paste as well – so much easier than trying to split and scrape vanilla beans.
My only comment is to make sure you use a big pot. Once you crank the heat to get the caramel up to 245 degrees, it starts bubbling and expanding like nobody’s business. Also, the apples you choose are very important. I wanted to use my beloved Honeycrisps, but they are so big, they’re not really practical for caramel apples. I have a lifelong hatred of Granny Smiths that prevented me from going that route, so I chose some small Macs from the farmer’s market near my house. The recipe suggests Macouns or Courtlands, but you’re really at the mercy of the farmers near you, depending on what kinds of apples they grow.
Jill liked hers and said she waited until her cubicle-mate left to go to a meeting before she proceeded to turn the bag inside out and lick all the caramel off the bottom. I’d say that’s the sign of a good treat! And bonus – gluten-free! I have the leftover caramel sitting in the fridge waiting to be swirled into some brownies or something like that.
This other thing I made is just crazy. I don’t even know what I was thinking, but in the end I’m glad I made it because it turned into a pretty cute blog header to bring us up to Christmas time. It’s essentially chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate. But it looks fun, is super easy to make, and obviously it tastes great. The recipe calls for Butterfingers, Skor Bars, Peanut Butter Cups, honey roasted peanuts, and Peanut M&Ms. I told you it was insane.
Danielle and I agreed that this would be super easy to customize according to what your friends like, and we thought of a salty/sweet version with pretzels, Pretzel M&Ms, and more chocolate on top. Or even a version of that over-priced Candy Cane bark at Williams-Sonoma with dark chocolate, crushed candy canes, and white chocolate on top. The possibilities are endless! Which maybe isn’t a good thing.
Vanilla Bean Caramel Apples
Source: Baked-New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
10-12 crisp apples
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 tbsp butter
- Wash and completely dry the apples. Remove the stems and then stab them with a wooden stake (I’ve been watching Buffy lately).
- Pour the cream into a
smalllarge heavy pot. Add the vanilla bean paste and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil.
- Add sugar, corn syrup, and butter, making sure the mixture doesn’t splash onto the sides of the pot. Keep the mixture over low heat and stir gently until sugar is dissolved to prevent burning.
- When the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium-high and insert a candy thermometer. Heat the mixture without stirring until it’s 245 degrees. This is where mine went bonkers and starting bubbling aggressively. I was scared.
- When the caramel mixture reaches 245 degrees, remove from heat. Mine was not as dark as the photo, so it probably didn’t cook long enough. But I was scared so I took it off the heat.
- Dip the apples and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. A little (or in my case big) pool of caramel will form at the base of the apple, but that’s okay. Chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes, then serve, or wrap in nerdy little Halloween bags to bring to the co-workers you like.
Halloween Candy Bark
Source: The Curvy Carrot
1 lb bittersweet chocolate
3 Butterfingers, chopped
3 Skor Bars, chopped
3 packs of Peanut Butter Cups, chopped
1/4 cup honey-roasted or butter-toffee peanuts
2 or 3 packages Peanut M&Ms (you get to eat all the red, green, and blue ones, save the yellow, orange and brown ones for the bark), chopped
3 oz white chocolate
- Line a cookie sheet with foil and set aside.
- Melt bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler and stir until smooth. Pour onto the cookie sheet and spread with an offset spatula until about 1/4″ thick.
- Sprinkle the Butterfingers, Skor Bars, Peanut Butter Cups, peanuts and M&Ms over top, and press down slightly to make sure everything is sticking to the chocolate base. Stick it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Melt the white chocolate over a double boiler and stir until smooth. Drizzle over the candy bark. I also added some sprinkles here because I didn’t think I had enough orange and yellow happening.
- Chill for another 30 minutes. Cut into pieces and wait for the sugar buzz to kick in.