Monday, October 15, 2012

Caramel Apples

Welcome to "Striving for Elegance". We are so glad you joined us here today. Emily and I are very excited to be starting up this blog again with what we hope will be inspiring seasonal ideas for you and your family.
I plan to tell you a little more about how Emily and I came to be such good friends in a later post, but for today we are going to be getting our hands sticky with.....CARAMEL APPLES!

When it comes to the changing seasons and the thought of approaching holidays, my mind is always geared towards traditions. As the momma of two precious kiddos, I work hard at helping them make memories that I hope they will cherish for years to come. Many of the memories I hold dear from my childhood have to do with food. Yes, I love to eat, but I really love "special" food, the food that only gets baked/cooked when it's snowing outside or Granmomma is in town, or company is coming for dinner. To me, caramel apples are one of those "special foods" made for October, to be shared with your children, neighbors, family, etc. I remember as a child, unwrapping little bit-sized Brach's caramels, for my mom to melt. However, a few years ago I decided I wanted to make my own caramel, and found this recipe that has turned out yummy and perfect caramel apples for several years in a row. I even got crazy one year and made 4 batches in one night. This recipe produces delicious, golden brown, aromatic caramel that will have you licking your fingers in no time (please let it cool first).

Here's the recipe:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12-15 small Granny Smith apples
popsicle sticks, or lollipop sticks

Begin by washing your apples, inserting the sticks, and placing them on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet . Spray the wax paper with non-stick cooking spray and refrigerate your apples for at least an hour. It is best to dip cold apples in warm caramel, so that the caramel doesn't fall completely off of the apple.

When you are ready to begin making the caramel, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and condensed milk in a dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat.
Bring to a boil.
Allow the mixture to boil for approximately 20 minutes, or until it reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer. You really need to use your best judgement when making caramel, as it may not need to boil 20 minutes before it is ready. Use your nose...if you begin to smell ANY hint of burning, turn the stove off immediately and remove the pot from the heat. Your caramel is ready. Preferably, you would remove the caramel from the heat before any caramel has a chance to burn. Once you remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the vanilla. Now, you are ready to dip your apples!

One by one, dip the apples at an angle into the caramel, rotating them until they are completely covered in the delicious, sugary goodness.

After you have dipped all of the apples, allow them to cool completely. 
If you have extra caramel, you could dip a spoon in it, let it cool, and feed it to your hungry children...or you could eat several bites of caramel yourself when no one is looking. I wouldn't know anything about that.

After the caramel apples have cooled and hardened, I love to jazz them up a bit (and cover any imperfections) with a little white chocolate and sprinkles. Who doesn't love sprinkles? I actually used almond bark, an imitation white chocolate, to drizzle on my apples. I broke off 2 cubes of the almond bark and melted it in my microwave, at 30 second intervals, for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring at each interval. I then snipped the corner of a ziploc bag, filled the bag with the melted almond bark, and began drizzling it all over the top of my apples. 

Almond bark dries quickly, so you will want to drizzle it on only a few apples before you add your sprinkles, or they will not stick.

At this point, you are certainly at liberty to cut into one of those beautiful apples and sink your teeth into the rich, glorious goodness. You could also allow them to set for a couple of hours, then package them up to give away. I made these Friday night and packaged them on Saturday morning. I just used clear cellophane bags and jute string. 

Who wouldn't want one of these little babies as a gift? Saturday morning, Jamie and I loaded up our kids and went on a walk, caramel apples in tow. It was a beautiful morning to be outside, and it was nice to be able to deliver homemade caramel apples to several families from our church who live within walking distance. I just love living in a small town.

Here are my kiddos, sporting their Halloween shirts, and ready to make the deliveries. We had fun counting all of the pumpkins we could see in front of the houses we walked past. I believe we counted 124 pumpkins.

I hope this post will inspire you to get in your kitchen and make some memories. Caramel apples are, in my opinion, the quintessential "Fall" food. Wrap them up, share them with your neighbors, and put smiles on the faces of your family and friends.
 ~ Jennifer

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