C A R A M E L A P P L E S
Fall is my favorite time of year. Not only for the mild weather and colorful changes to the leaves, but because of those wonderful comfort foods we like to make during this time of year. The smell of apples with cinnamon baking, pumpkin cheesecakes rich with nutmeg and classic American chili with just the right amount of spice to keep you warm on a cool autumn night are all part of traditional fall cooking. It is this time of year when we make special treats like caramel apples and caramel corn to satisfy that sweet tooth. With these tasty fall recipes you will be Cooking The Amazing.
Here is an easy recipe for Caramel Apples. Everyone loves Caramel Apples and the whole family can get involved by going to local orchards and picking your own apples. You will know where and how they were grown and they will be fresher than any apple you can buy at the grocery store. Of course, buying a bag of apples from your local store will work just fine. Granny smith apples have a tart contrast to the sweet creamy caramel and work best, but any apple can make a good caramel apple. Kids can help wash the apples and insert the sticks but young children should not be near the super hot caramel as it cooks. Try this easy recipe and you will never buy those packaged caramel apples in the store again or unwrap 10,000 little caramels to make a mediocre caramel apple. Caramel apples make perfect treats at parties and the perfect surprise in a packed school lunch. The caramel recipe is so versatile. Try it warm over ice cream or drizzled over apple crisp. When you taste how good homemade caramel can be, that is Cooking The Amazing.
Here is the recipe.
- 15-18 Medium Sized Granny Smith Apples
- 15-18 Popsicle Sticks
- Large Muffin/Cupcake Papers
- 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
- 1 lb. Dark Brown Sugar
- 1 14 oz Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1 c Light Corn Syrup
- Pinch of Salt (omit if you only have salted butter)
- 1 1/2 t Vanilla Extract
- 3-4 c Chopped Nuts (Peanuts or Pecans are the classics)
- Total prep and cooking time: approx. 60 mins
Tip: Try using ripe pears instead of apples.
1. Wash apples well to remove wax and then remove the stem by twisting. Dry apples well.
2. Insert popsicle sticks into top of apple. Place chopped nuts in a bowl. Place the large muffin/cupcake papers on a tray or cookie sheet ready for your dipped apples.
3. In a heavy bottomed pot, melt butter on medium-low heat.
4. Add the dark brown sugar and stir well into melted butter. Melt sugar, stirring constantly and rapidly, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir. From this point on do not stop stirring to prevent scorching.
5. Add sweetened condensed milk, light corn syrup, salt and mix well.
6. Insert a candy thermometer to side of pan and watch it close.
7. Stove tops vary and you may need to increase your heat to medium to bring mixture to boiling and 248 degrees on a candy thermometer. This is a slow process. This may take 15-25 minutes to reach this temperature. Try keeping your heat to the lowest possible setting while still increasing the temperature on the thermometer steadily ( usually staying at medium). If you notice dark floating particles you need to pull your pot off the heat and then lower heat slightly because this indicates your are starting to scorch the caramel. Then return it back to heat and stir, stir, stir!
8. Once you reach 248 degrees cook for 1 minute and continue to rapidly stir then remove pot from burner and while still stirring add vanilla extract. It will sizzle when added. Mix it well.
9. Dip apples into pot of hot caramel and using a big spoon cover the entire apple, especially the area where the stick inserts into apple. This will prevent browning of the apple later when you store it.
10. Lift the apple out of the caramel and allow excess caramel to drain back into the pot. Using the spoon, scrape excess from the bottom of the apple then dip the covered apple into the bowl of chopped nuts and roll apple to coat bottom 1/4th of apple. Pecans or peanuts are the classic nut used but any type would be great. The nut coated bottoms helps prevent sticking to the paper. Place the apple on a cupcake paper and allow to cool and set up at room temperature. Chilling in the refrigerator speeds up setting.
TIP: Use Halloween candy, like candy corn, in place of the nuts to cover the bottom of dipped apples for a special treat for the kids and sweet toothed adults.
C A R A M E L C O R N
Caramel Corn is one of those treats that once you start eating it, you just can't stop. I usually make it just a couple times a year for that fact alone but, when I do make it, I always wonder why don't I make it more often. It is that good. And it is that easy. Bag up the caramel corn in fun clear bags and give out as Halloween treats or mix with nuts, M&Ms, dried cranberries, etc. for an even more delicious snack. You will hide this from your family so make more than you think you will eat.
Here is the recipe.
- 3 Bags of PLAIN (or Natural) Flavor Microwave Popcorn
- Recipe for Caramel as above
- 1-2 c Nuts, optional (like Pecans, Almonds, Peanuts, or Cashews)
- Total prep and cook time: approx. 1 hr 15 mins
- Have a couple large bowls, or use a disposable foil turkey roasting pan or large jelly roll pan, ready to mix popcorn and caramel later. Have 2 cookie sheets ready to place coated caramel corn on to dry in last step.
- Microwave 3 bags of popcorn, plain flavored, as directed by package. Remove any unpopped kernels and place popped corn in the big bowl or roasting pan. Of course, you can pop your own on the stove top.
- Prepare caramel recipe as in the Caramel Apple above. Pour the hot caramel over the popped corn and using a big spoon, toss well, using care not to break up popcorn kernels. Fold caramel to cover all of the pop corn. Work quick before it sets up and becomes harder to mix. Use caution. IT IS HOT! This can be the messy part. If adding optional nuts, add them at this stage when folding caramel over pop corn.
- Pour covered popcorn onto cookie sheets and spread out in an even layer. Let sit out at room temperature until completely cool. It will become more hard and less sticky after sitting at least 6-8 hrs. Store in air tight containers or large gallon size baggies.
- If adding M&Ms, cranberries, etc. add them once cooled by breaking up the caramel corn in small bunches and mix them in. Otherwise, they may melt.
- Option: Drizzle with melted chocolate for an over the top caramel corn after cooled slightly and allow to set before separating into chunks.
TIP: Use the largest, most shallow roasting pans, jelly roll pans, or bowls you have to coat popcorn with caramel. It will coat more surface area faster.
Recipe In Pictures:
The initial stages. Keep scraping the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Butter will seem separated at first but will incorporate as the temperature rises and the caramel cooks.
After cooking to the 248 degree stage, the color lightens and boils rapidly.
The caramel being spooned over the popcorn before it is mixed.
COPYRIGHT (c) 2009