Recipe

The Shortcut

Prep time: 8 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 apples (McIntosh or Granny Smiths are recommended, but Serjeant's Muse insists that Gala apples are even better.)
  • 6 wooden sticks
  • 1 (14 oz / 392 gram) package of individually-wrapped caramels
  • 2 tablespoons / 1 oz / 30 ml of milk
  • Optional nuts or candy (sprinkles, M&Ms, chocolate chips, coconut, crushed candy bars, whatever you prefer. I like crushed Skor bars.)

Method

  1. Unwrap caramels. Try not to eat all of them.
  2. Butter a baking sheet.
  3. After removing the apple stems, press a wooden stick through the top of each one (make sure it won’t bend or fall out, this is how you’re going to eat it after.)
  4. Place milk and caramels (there’s no plastic on those, right?) in a microwave-safe dish and microwave the mixture for 2 minutes, stirring once.
  5. Briefly cool caramel.
  6. Quickly roll apples in melted caramel, coating evenly. While still melted and sticky, you may roll the caramel apple in nuts or candy, or press them onto the surface.
  7. Place on baking sheet to set.

The Real Thing

Prep time: 25 minutes
Ready in: 55 minutes
Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 8-10 apples (about medium-sized and tart)
  • 8-10 wooden sticks (corresponding with the number of apples)
  • 1 cup / 8 oz / 230 grams of butter (not margarine, not shortening. Real, creamy, fattening butter.)
  • 2 packed cups / 16 oz / 460 grams of brown sugar
  • 1 cup / 8 oz / 250 ml of light corn syrup
  • 1 can / 14 oz / 420 ml of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons / 1/3 oz / 10 ml of vanilla
  • Optional nuts or candy (M&Ms, coconut, sprinkles, crushed chocolate bars, chocolate chips, etc.)
    (A candy thermometer is also required)

Method

  1. Butter a baking sheet.
  2. Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and milk in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Cook and stir continuously (careful not to let it burn. It’s hell to clean up after) until 248 degrees on your candy thermometer. This should take anywhere from 30-40 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat (don’t burn yourself, either) and stir in vanilla.
  5. Carefully insert sticks into apples, removing the stems first.
  6. Roll or dip apples in caramel, coating evenly.
  7. Optional: Roll apple in candy or nuts while the caramel is still sticky, or press them into the surface. Chocolate, especially white chocolate, can also be drizzled on or dipped for decoration. (Nuts or candy can be rolled onto the chocolate as well.)
  8. Set to cool on prepared baking sheet.

  9. Apparently you can substitute pears for apples in this recipe. Before caramelizing them, poke a few holes and soak them in brandy, white rum or sugar syrup for an hour. You can also try carmelizing strawberries.

Oh, and one more thing, these do not last forever. This may seem obvious to you, but having the unpleasent experience of eating one that seemed to have partially fermented (it tasted vaguely of beer), I feel I must warn you.


History

Whether you call it caramel or toffee, this simple sweet treat has a story to tell. Said to be invented in the 1950s by Dan Walker (a sales rep for Kraft Foods), caramel apple kits were soon put on the market and they’ve been a treasured delight ever since. Candy apples have been around much longer, and both are famous at fairs and carnivals, as well as being a favourite around Halloween.

That’s where the caramel apple story comes into play: Halloween. Most of us now are familiar with the razorblade in the apple story, or any other variation of the dangerous Halloween candy scandal.

Interestingly, the first recorded event of this was not what you would expect. In 1964, a housewife from New York began handing out steel wool, dog biscuits, and ant buttons (labeled “poison”) to kids she thought were too old to be trick-or-treating. Although no one was hurt and the housewife pleaded guilty to endangerment, this started a snowball effect and soon everyone was coming forward with their own stories of poisoned candy.

The vast majority of the claims were proven untrue. One father killed his son for insurance fraud by poisoning the child's Pixy Stix and handed out poisoned candy to more kids to make it seem more legitimate. Another reported candy poisoning was in fact due to a 5-year-old boy ingesting his uncle’s heroin stash. The candy story was just a cover-up.

Most pins and needles in apples stories are much more innocent. During a pranking day second only to April Fools' Day, in most instances the needles were planted by the child, their sister/brother or a friend as a joke, typically to freak out a parent. Not a particularly safe or funny prank, but that’s practical joking for you. The total injuries recorded in all of the needle/razorblade apple events ranks at a whopping 10, and the most serious one required a few stitches.

The media, however, went wild with the stories. Our beloved caramel apple was targeted by Ann Landers herself when she advised, “In recent years, there have been reports of people with twisted minds putting razor blades and poison in taffy apples and Halloween candy. It is no longer safe to let your child eat treats that come from strangers.”

So now, mostly through media exaggeration and parental paranoia, we are denied the pleasures of handing out home-baked treats like this one to costumed kids. When I was still an avid trick-or-treater, I mourned the old ladies that would spend hours dipping caramel apples or making popcorn balls only to have them thrown out on parents’ orders.

Keep the caramel apple alive! Make them at home, give them to friends, preach their virtues, just don’t let media myths keep you from the delicious, not-quite-nutritious sweet.

Disclaimer: Media exaggeration or not, it’s probably still not a good idea to take candy from strangers. Don’t come crying to me when you bite down on the first real razorblade.


Sources:
Caramel Apple (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caramel_apples)
Caramel Apples – All Recipes – Dessert (http://dessert.allrecipes.com/az/Crmlppls.asp)
Caramel Apples Recipe (http://www.recipezaar.com/73274)
Janet K. Keeler, Taste: dish. (http://www.sptimes.com/News/102401/Taste/dish.shtml)
Poisoned Candy Scare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoned_candy_scare)
Urban Legends Reference Page: Pins and Needles (http://www.snopes.com/horrors/mayhem/needles)

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