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Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Today, Not Without Salt's Ashley Rodriguez shares her wisdom on making caramel apples and pears, with a cardamom-honey twist.
It happens every year. In fact it oddly doesn’t feel like fall until we’ve visited an orchard. Surrounded by rows of towering espaliered trees brimming with fruit I allow myself to say goodbye to summer and usher in this new season that brings with it cinnamon, pumpkin, warm beverages, and deep, golden caramel. Sure, caramel isn’t necessarily seasonal but as it’s a perfect match for pears and apples it does seem to be fall’s sweet friend. After spending an afternoon wandering the paths blanketed with fallen fruit it seems almost necessary to reward the fruits of our labor with a thick coat of copper-colored caramel.
Sweet, sticky and lightly spiced, it is the perfect layering for a crisp apple or pear. Honey makes up the base of this caramel giving it a depth of flavor not present in a caramel of granulated sugar. Now I realize that caramel is a bit of an intimidating kitchen task but I assure you that with clean equipment, a watchful eye and patience you’ll be rewarded with a caramel deep in flavor, subtle in spice and intriguingly floral. A caramel worthy of overcoming your candy making fears.
Cardamom Honey Caramel for Apples and Pears
Makes 8 small/medium apples or pears.
Read through the entire recipe and tips before beginning this process. Whenever you are working with caramel it is always necessary to use very clean equipment as we want to take precautions to prevent crystallization. Feel free to skip the popsicle sticks and just serve this, slightly warm, as an apple dip. Save any remaining caramel to serve over ice cream or stir into your morning espresso. In fact, feel free to double the recipe just to have leftovers!
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon mild honey, such as clover
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 cardamom pods, cracked and seeds ground or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup toasted, finely chopped hazelnuts
You will also need popsicle or lollipop sticks.
Fill the bottom of your sink or a large bowl with ice water. This will be used to quickly stop the caramel from cooking once it’s reached the desired temperature.
In a large saucepan (the caramel bubbles up so make sure the pot is much larger than the quantity of the ingredients) heat the cream and salt to a simmer. Once small bubbles appear in the cream add the honey and ground cardamom. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching on the sides or bottoms of the pan. Stay close to the pan as you want to make sure the caramel doesn’t boil over. Continue to cook until the temperature reaches 260*F. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your pan and the heat of your range.
If you don’t have a thermometer, boil the caramel for at least 20 minutes, and then watch for these visual clues: The finished caramel will be deep golden in color, the bubbles will be small and covering the entire surface of the caramel, and the viscosity will be much thicker than when you started, resembling caramel sauce. You can also test the caramel's density by placing a small amount in a bowl of ice water. The cooled caramel should feel like caramel candy -- slightly firm with a good bit of chew.
Once the caramel reaches 260*F, immediately submerge the bottom of the pan into the bowl of ice water to cease the cooking of the caramel. Stir to cool evenly. Firmly place the popsicle sticks into your apples and/or pears. Dip the fruit into the cooled caramel using a spatula or spoon to help bring the caramel up the sides of the fruit. Let excess caramel fall off the fruit, then coat the bottom of the dipped fruit in the chopped hazelnuts. Place finished fruit on a parchment lined sheet tray and then into the refrigerator until caramel is firm, about 15 minutes.
Tips for Success
• If using pears, use fruit that is firm to prevent the popsicle stick from sliding out.
• Wait to dip the fruit until the caramel is cool. It will be quite thick and sticky but it helps to prevent the caramel from sliding right off.
• Use fruit that is not waxed.
• Chill the fruit before dipping. This sets the caramel immediately. You could also dip then refrigerate.
• Let the excess caramel drip off for at least one minute before dipping into the nuts.
• Because this is a honey-based caramel there will be some dripping and sliding off of the fruit. I forgive the caramel for doing this because it has such an incredible flavor but if this will be an issue for you you may want to stick to a recipe that uses granulated sugar.
Ashley will be answering questions about caramel apples and pears on the Hotline for those of you who want to take on this project at home. For the quickest response, go to her recipe and ask a question from there -- we'll email her your question right away!
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