Holiday apples

From Adam and Eve’s sinful temptation in the beginning of mankind to Snow White’s poisonous bait in the fairy tales, the apple has always had a mystical and forbidden lure.

It’s easy to come up with new twists on this traditional Halloween treat. Caramel candied apples can be gourmet-qualified by using quality chocolate and sprinkling nuts.

From Adam and Eve’s sinful temptation in the beginning of mankind to Snow White’s poisonous bait in the fairy tales, the apple has always had a mystical and forbidden lure.

However in modern times, it may have been the birth of the candied apple that has renewed our enticement to indulge in this fruit.

How did this sticky crackly sweet treat start off and grow to be synonymous with Halloween?

For thousands of years, fruits of all kinds have been “candied,” primarily for preservation purposes. During the Renaissance, it was very popular to candy both orange peel and gingerroot. This made them palatable to children and adults, but also made it possible to keep them for long periods.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century, however, when a New Jersey candy maker, William W. Kolb, made his first candied apple.

During one Christmas season, he was working in his candy shop with red cinnamon candy. He dipped some apples into the mixture and then decided to place them in the windows for a holiday display. The entire first batch sold out for 5 cents each. This later led to selling this candied fruit in the thousands yearly and becoming a staple at fairs, carnivals and amusement parks.

Different areas of the world regard the candied apple as a signifier of different seasons and holidays. In Germany, candied apples are sold around the Christmas season, whereas in North America candied apples became more synonymous with Halloween, autumn and harvest season in general.

In the Thanksgiving feast, North Americans viewed the candied apple as an embellishment of the fruits of the harvest from the fall. In Europe, there is not the same kind of massive apple harvest, making the cinnamon flavoured, bright red apple more of a symbol of the shiny, red bulbs that decorate the Christmas trees.

Though the candied apple did come first, it was its caramel cousin that evolved this nostalgic confectionary into a truly upscale gourmet product .

Dan Walker, a 1950s sales representative for Kraft, came up with the idea of printing caramel apple recipes on bags of Kraft individually wrapped caramels. It was because of Walker’s ingenious marketing ploy, sales of Kraft caramels exploded.

From then on, homemade caramel apples began popping up in kitchens while candy shops began selling apples dipped with copper kettle cooked fresh caramel, sprinkled with a variety of gourmet nuts and sweet treats.

Whether these apples are covered in hard red sugar syrup, caramel or chocolate, one thing that hasn’t changed. Candied apples are almost always served with a stick in the middle to make them easier to eat.

If you’re thinking of making your own caramel apples here are a few tips to consider.

• McIntosh or Granny Smith apples are the best choices — preferably Granny Smith, the tartness of which is the best counterpoint to sweet caramel. Avoid the temptation to use other varieties, e.g. Fuji or Delicious, no matter what the recipe may say. They are too sweet and don’t provide the contrast required.

• Use cold apples for dipping to keep the caramel from sliding off.

• To avoid apples from sticking together, coat in nuts, chocolate, etc. They won’t stick together and can be packaged individually.

• If using store-bought apples, the wax applied to them may keep the caramel from sticking. Scrub apples clean with baking soda, or dip briefly in boiling water to remove the wax.

• When decorating with larger items, don’t make them too big, as big items tend to be too heavy for the caramel to hold them.

• Toppings to consider: chopped nuts, toasted coconut, miniature chocolate morsels, chopped candy bars, hot cinnamon candies, dried fruit licorice, candy sprinkles, popcorn, crumbled cracker, crushed cookies

Here are couple of candied apple recipes that are sinfully delicious and will indubitably lead you into temptations!

Red Hot Candied Apples

6 Red Delicious apples, washed and dried

6 wooden ice-cream sticks

1 cup water

3 cups sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup red-hot candies

1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

Grease a large cookie sheet and set it aside. Remove the stems from the apples and insert a wooden stick through stem end of apples. Set aside on a plate.

In 2 quart heavy saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Heat the mixture over a medium heat to boiling without stirring. Wipe sides of pan with damp cloth occasionally to remove any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan.

Boil the mixture, without stirring, until candy thermometer reaches 290F, or when a little of mixture dropped into cold water separates into thin, hard threads, about 20 minutes.

Remove the syrup from the heat. Dip the bottom of the pot briefly in cold water to stop the cooking process. Tip the pan and swirl each apple in the mixture to coat.

Place the apples on the cookie sheet to cool. Work quickly before the syrup hardens. Cool for one hour before serving

Quick Caramel apples

700 g. (24 oz.) caramels, unwrapped

4 tbsp. whole milk

10-12 medium-sized apples, sticks inserted in tops

Melt caramels and milk together in a double boiler, stirring often. Or melt in the microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted and smooth. Dip apples into hot caramel.

In order to get as thick a caramel coating as possible, dip each apple at an angle and rotate within the caramel. Pull apple out vertically and allow excess caramel to drip off.

Then turn the apple right-side-up a moment (as if you were about to eat it) and let the caramel settle for a few seconds.

This prevents large bare spots at the top of the apple. Place apples on greased wax paper or foil. While caramel is still warm and soft, decorate as desired. (Unless dipping apples in chocolate, in which case the caramel needs to be allowed to set.) Let cool to set.

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at madhubadoni@gmail.com

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