There's not much celebrating of All Hallow's Eve here in New Zealand. No tricker or treaters, only one costume big party in town tonight and at the nearby Warehouse store, the meager rack of cheap costumes is squeezed almost forgotten between the mounds of cat food on the one side and the glistening Christmas plethora on the other. We did however find two lovely little pumpkins at the Lyttleton Market to carve and some scrumptious, perfectly sized apples for dipping. And last night, despite the absence of costumes, we had a lovely spring BBQ with all the neighbours who admired the little jack o'lanterns and devoured the candy apples.
For you to enjoy on your next little Halloween (or other sugar-high holiday) party. Adapted from Mahalo.com (http://www.mahalo.com/how-to-make-delicious-caramel-apples).
Popsicle stickes or skewers broken in half
Pot for making caramel
Larger pot for Bain Marie
Smaller bowls for other ingredients
Tray lined with parchment paper for cooling
Candy thermometer (can be done without one, but it makes life easier)
Glass of water with a brush in it
Glass of cold water beside stove
6-10 Apples (we used Granny Smith for their tartness to balance the sweetness of the caramel)
1 1/2 cups Brown sugar
6 Tbsp. Milk or cream
1 1/2 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
Other coating ingredients (crushed nuts, coconut, smarties, sour-o's, chocolate chips, sprinkles, gummi bears, life savers, trail mix, granola, whatever tickles your fancy)
Melted chocolate, if desired
First prep your apples.
If they are store-bought, they generally have a waxy coating on them. This can be removed by dipping them in boiling water and scrubbing the wax off.
Next, stick a popsicle stick or skewer in them and line them up in an easily accessible manner (the dipping part goes fast).
Now get your rolling ingredients ready by pouring them into a flat bowl that your apples can be rolled around in.
Place your brown sugar, butter and milk in a pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Allow mixture to bubble away until it reaches 236 degrees Farenheiht (or soft ball candy stage, where when dropped in a cup of cold water, it forms a ball but when brought out of the water the ball flattens). If crystals start to form on the inside of the pot, brush some water around the insides to stop this happening.
While your sugar is bubbling, start another pot of water boiling to be your Bain Marie. The bain marie will help to keep you caramel from cooling down too quickly while you work on coating your caramel apples.
Once your caramel has reached the right temperature/stage, quickly place it in the Bain Marie and start dipping. Take an apple by the stick and roll it around in the caramel, tipping the pot may help here. Then roll your apple in the desired coating material and place on your tray to let it set. If your caramel cools down too much and becomes too thick to work with, put it back on the heat and add a splash of cream or milk and stir until it comes back to a workable state.
If you want to coat your apples in chocolate after the caramel, you must first allow the caramel to set. Melt your chocolate (10-30 seconds at a time in the microwave at medium stirring in between until melty) and dip your set apples when ready. Alternatively, you could drizzle the chocolate over the apple in an appealing (or unappealing) manner. If you want your chocolate to harden you must temper it. Instructions can be found on this website: http://candy.about.com/od/candybasics/ht/temperchoc.htm Although they say to use a double boiler, it can be done in the microwave if you are careful and check the temperature every time you have it out (every 30 seconds or so) - the important part is heating it up to the necessary temperature, reducing it again and finally, heating it back up.
Once all your apples are dipped and decorated they are ready to enjoy. Using a knife to cut off slices makes it easier to eat, but where's the fun in that?