This is a long pending post. It took forever to complete this one. Date – Sometime during fall, 2012. But completed April, 2013. Don’t ask me why? I was wasting time on useless stuff. Finally, I sat down to complete what I started months back. This is a simple recipe that I did because I found some lush apples in a farm. Oh yeah! Fresh produce from the tree. Organic too.
A weekend hike and a recipe post.
Sometimes, when pleasant things happen and good recipes take form. Here’s a recipe for caramel dipped apples, a sweet fruit snack. Weekends are fun, ain’t it? I have a husband who works 5 days a week and we get to spend quality time over the weekends. This is run-of-the mill routine for any home maker. Usually, we do the planning mid week. Same way, I suggested a visit to the farmers market over the weekend. But then, PR receives a call on Friday evening which is an invite for a hike at the Rancho San Antonio County Park the next morning. There went my plan down the drain. The husband won, we went hiking!
I didn’t regret joining PR and his friends for hiking. In a way, it was refreshing doing something active after a long time. A beautiful sunny day was spent hiking 4 miles long trail and lunch in an Ethiopian restaurant. My legs were sore due to the long walk, but it was worth the pain. Oh boy! nature always has something bountiful to offer. Some of the things that caught my eye was captured with Instagram on my mobile. Sharing some pictures taken.
Californian bay leaves on the ground. Damn! I buy less than a handful for couple of dollars from whole foods market. Had I known that there is a bay leaf tree, I’d gone prepared with a knapsack to collect it. These look and smell different than the Indian Tej patta leaves. Notice the difference…these have a single vein where as Indian bay leaf has 3 veins. Well, both are aromatic and fragrant enough to flavor a dish.
The attractive part of the hike were these golden delicious apples which were plucked fresh from the tree and kept for sale. The payment was honor paying system where you drop the money in the box and buy as many as you want. Can you believe these apples are organic, farm fresh and just 25 cents per fruit. I haven’t come across any organic produce cheaper than this. I picked less than a dozen. These are crunchy and sweet, just apt for snacking.
Here we go…that’s how caramel/honey apples came to form in my kitchen. I’ve bought caramel dipped apples from the shops but never made it myself. I’ve made caramel sauce for ice creams and desserts. But then I wasn’t sure of the consistency of dipping caramel as there are stages in caramelization which can change into toffee in a blink of an eye. It changes consistency with temperature and the time taken.
As usual, I searched for recipes online. I came across tonnes of recipes that used corn syrup, condensed milk or used store-bought caramel candies to make dipping caramel. I don’t feign ignorance when I know ‘corn syrup’ is not good for health. Anything with corn syrup is banned in my kitchen. I needed a replacement for this wonder (blech!) ingredient. Hence, I replaced corn syrup with honey to prevent crystallization.
Honey has a similar composition of fructose and glucose to corn syrup that will keep the caramel gooey and chewy. Also replaced white sugar with organic cane sugar. That’s the sugar I use for everything. Over a decade or so, I haven’t used refined white sugar in my kitchen. So didn’t bother to buy white sugar just for this recipe. I went ahead using a basic caramel recipe.
Source – several online and cookbook recipes
Makes scant 2 cups
- 6 big or 8 small apples, unwaxed and organic
- 1 cup organic cane sugar. You can use white sugar or even brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream. Can be substituted with half and half or evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup organic honey. Use any honey of choice
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Wash and dry the apples. Use unwaxed apples. I find it hard to keep the caramel on waxed apples. It just slides. Remove the stems. Insert a lollipop stick or popsicle stick or bamboo skewer half way through the top of the apples. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or aluminum foil. Place the apples on the cookie sheets. Keep all ingredients ready and within reach.
- In a medium sized stainless steel heavy bottom sauce pan pour cream, honey and sugar. Yes! all three ingredients at one go. On medium heat, constantly stirring, bring to a very low simmer. DO NOT hurry the simmering process. It takes about 30 mins for the sweet mixture to simmer. What happens is, the water evaporates and the sugar concentration increases. We are aiming to reach the ‘firm ball’ stage of caramelization. Continue stirring to prevent recrystallization.
- If you have a candy or instant thermometer, you may want to check the temperature. The firm ball stage is 244-248 degrees F / 118-120 degrees C. For stages of sugar, check here. We don’t want a soupy caramel with more water content than needed or a hard brittle caramel that may shatter when broken. Chewy caramel is what we want. As it cools, caramel changes character and stiffens.
- If you do not have a thermometer, you will have to do the ‘cold water test’ to confirm the stage of sugar. Take a bowl of cold water, pour a spoonful of bubbling caramel into the bowl of water. Wait for half a minute. Let it cool and settle. Fish for the caramel with your fingers. You should be able to form a ball that holds shape. The ball stays a balls and should not flatten or smear. If so, there is too much water and not enough sugar concentration in the caramel.
- Add the butter and vanilla extract, stir well until melted. Once it reaches the ‘firm ball stage’, we’re done. Remove the pan from heat. Else it will continue to cook and transform as toffee. Let the caramel cool slightly, not fully. It should be easy to pour.
- Coat the apples now. You can either choose to transfer the caramel into a deep dish, tilt the dish and dip the apples until fully covered. Or you can spoon caramel over the apples. As you coat the apples, the caramel may cool and thicken. Do not hesitate to return pan on low heat and stir. As long as the caramel is not boiled, the water-sugar concentration remains good for dipping. This will keep the consistency uniform till you finish dipping all the apples.
- Place the dipped the apples on the lined cookie sheet. Let it cool completely at room temperature. If not the caramel will stick to the wax paper. Once cooled, it will easily come off. You can give a second coat of chocolate or crushed nuts or sprinkles. Place the decorated and dipped apples on a cupcake liner. It looks pretty! Tie a bow on the lolli stick. It looks prettier! These make lovely gifts.
- If the caramel peels off the apple for some reason, do not dip the apples with caramel right away. The grease on the apple will not allow the caramel to coat the apples. You have to wash the apples and get rid of the grease.
- Do not insert the lolli stick too deep into the apple. It will pierce through the other end, and the apple will ooze out liquid which is not good for the caramel coating. Try to do the piercing right before making the caramel. Do not try to re insert the lolli stick in the same place over and over. It just makes a bigger hole and the stick will come out. If this happens, just use a fork to dip the apples and decorate.
- If the caramel separates into a layer of fat and caramel, it’s not good. You can still rescue the mixture by adding 3 tbsp of water and 1/4 cup of honey. Bring to a simmer and keep stirring till it looks uniform. Do the cold water test or check temperature with a thermometer. Continue with the dipping as quickly as possible. The fat may separate again. Do not throw it, just eat it!