Homemade vanilla caramel, apples from the farmers market, and good chocolate raise the status of this old-fashioned Halloween treat -- you’ll want to slice these into wedges and serve them at the table. And they are gorgeous. Choose apples that you love, but sample first: The flavor and texture of apples change from week to week in season, and there is no point in making caramel and investing in chocolate unless you start with great apples. I go for juicy apples with a good balance of sweet and tart, such as Braeburns, Jonathans, and Pink Ladys, but I keep an eye out for unfamiliar vintage apples to try. There is no need to temper the chocolate for this recipe so long as you store the apples in the refrigerator, which keeps them firm and fresh anyhow. —Alice Medrich
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 2 hours 15 minutes
- Makes 8 apples
(396 grams) sugar
(234 grams) light corn syrup
(84 grams) honey
(454 grams) heavy cream
(42 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
small to medium apples, cold
(455 grams) chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 to 6 ounces
(140 to 170 grams) chopped toasted nuts (optional)
Long-handled silicone spatula or wooden spoon
6 to 8 popsicle sticks
- Combine sugar, corn syrup, honey, and salt in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the insides of the pot with a wet pastry brush or a wad of paper towel dipped in water. Cover and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse the spoon or spatula before using it again later. Uncover the pot and wash the sides once more. Insert a candy thermometer without letting it touch the bottom of the pot. Cook, uncovered, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 305°F (152°C), about 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer and keep it hot until needed.
- When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F (152°C), turn the heat off. Stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, be careful. Turn the burner back on under the pot and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Continue to cook, stirring constantly for about 6 minutes until the bubbles stop rising to the top of the pot. Once the bubbles have gone down a bit, continue to cook and stir occasionally until the temperature reaches 250°F (121°C), about 25 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the caramel to a smaller pot or heatproof bowl deep enough to dip the apples. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Impale each apple on a stick. Holding the stick, dip an apple into the caramel, allowing the excess to flow back into the pot. Set the apple on a sheet of wax paper. Repeat to coat each apple. If the caramel gets too cool, it will slide entirely off of the apple—if this happens, reheat gently (without simmering), then continue to dip. Let the dipped apples set until caramel is cool and firm, at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate them. Store any leftover caramel in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for later use.
- Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring frequently until almost entirely melted, about 4 ½ minutes. Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted and warm, not hot. Dip each apple into the chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to flow back into the bowl, then transfer to a baking rack that’s been placed on a baking sheet to let the last bits of excess chocolate drip off. Once dripping stops, sprinkle with nuts if desired. Transfer the dipped apples on a tray lined with wax paper. Refrigerate to set the chocolate for a minimum of 45 minutes, keep the apples fresh and crisp, and keep the chocolate from discoloring. Take the apples from the fridge 30 minutes or so before serving if you can remember.