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Yes, I know Halloween is over. I don’t care. I think you should make these anyway.

When my sister-in-law asked us to help her make candy apples for a work bake sale, I said yes because she’s fun to be with, but I wasn’t exactly excited to eat candy apples. Frankly, every candy apple I’ve ever tasted has been unpleasant. Give me an apple, or give me candy, but the combination? I always figured there was no point in poisoning your tongue with gross candy just to get to a mushy, tasteless apple.

Oddly enough, though, making these gave me an incredible high of self-sufficiency. They’re so pretty, so charming, I had a hard time believing they came out of my kitchen. And, as it turns out, making candy apples at home ensures that the pretty-looks/gross-taste disconnect isn’t an issue.

We used nice crisp granny smith apples for the caramel ones, and the sweet buttery caramel perfectly complemented the apples’ tartness. Plus, the caramel was thick enough that you actually got a bit of it in every apple-bite.

For the shiny red candy apples, we crushed up some hard cinnamon candies to melt into the sugar mixture, so that the coating tasted like something other than sweet. This worked well, and I was pleasantly surprised at the candy coating. I was worried because I was sure the candy was too thick and it would be impossible to bite into, and Amy’s $3 bake sale apples would be a huge disaster, and everyone would ask for their money back and she would blame me and I’d be humiliated. Yes, I am neurotic.

But the candy coating was perfect. It was easy to bite through (easier than the caramel, actually. I may have left that one on the heat about 5 seconds too long), and it gave the impression that the apple had the most crisp, sweet, delicious skin imaginable. The cinnamon candies were a great addition too, as they added just a hint of extra flavour. It was too late by the time I thought of it, but I realized afterwards that instead of using cinnamon candies, it would have been brilliant to use vanilla sugar in the sugar syrup. Next time.

One more stroke of genius was our apple-washing technique. When I was researching recipes, I read that the standard waxy supermarket coating often prevents caramel from holding to the sides of the apple. People advised quickly bobbing apples in boiling water to remove at least some of the wax. Here’s my technique: I put my large pot, the one with a pasta insert, on to boil, and I lined the pasta insert with apples. When the water was boiling, I dropped in the pasta insert, giving the apples a 5-second bath without having to risk my fingers with pouring and dumping boiling water. Then I transferred the apples to an ice-water bath to make sure they wouldn’t cook (thus compromising their crunchiness) even the slightest bit.

Final conclusion: pretty, tasty, infinitely edible. Don’t save these home-made candy apples just for Halloween!

Caramel Apples
adapted from Martha Stewart

candy thermometer
10 sticks (popsicle sticks are fine, but skewers grouped in threes look quite elegant)
10 tart and crunchy apples (smaller is better)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup golden corn syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
pinch of salt

1. Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper, generously buttered. Make sure you’ve got room in your fridge for the baking sheet. Stick skewers or sticks in the apples.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large (the deeper the better) pot, and bring slowly to a boil. Allow the mixture to continue simmering until it reaches 245 F.

3. Remove the mixture from the pot and stir it vigorously to cool it down and stop its bubbling action. Working quickly, dip each apple in the caramel. We used a spoon to pull the caramel up from the pan around the sides of the apple. Transfer apple to baking sheet.

4. Place baking sheet in the refrigerator until the caramel is cooled and set, at least 15 minutes or overnight. If you have leftover caramel (we did!), pour the caramel onto a buttered piece of parchment paper or wax paper and allow it to set. Then consume it enthusiastically.

Shiny Candy-Coated Apples
adapted from All Recipes
One of the secrets of this recipe is not to stir the sugar syrup while it’s bubbling and heating. This is hard to do, but leave it alone! It doesn’t need you. Just keep an eye on the temperature, because it gets hot quickly. You also need to work fast to coat the apples once you’ve taken the syrup off the heat. It cools really quickly.

candy thermometer
10 sticks/skewers
10 red apples (find nice crunchy ones)
2 cups white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup cinnamon hearts or cinnamon hard candies, crushed (I put them in a plastic bag and hit them with a meat pounder)
8 drops red food colouring

1. Generously butter a sheet pan. Don’t try using paper–it will probably end up sticking to the apples. Put skewers/sticks in apples.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and cinnamon candies in a heavy-bottomed pot and heat at medium heat. I stirred mine to help the cinnamon candies dissolve, but I stopped stirring once the mixture was boiling. Continue cooking your sugar syrup until it reaches 300 F, then remove from heat.

3. Working quickly, dip and roll the apples in the candy mixture to coat. Use a spoon to pull syrup over spots you missed, if necessary. Place apple on prepared sheet to cool (this happens quickly).

PS. I can’t get my images to centre in wordpress. Anyone have any hints? fixed

PPS. We’ve decided to participate in NaBloPoMo again this month. Despite the slight crazy-makingness of it last year, it was a rewarding experience that got us in touch with a lot of great people. We’re looking forward to doing it again!