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NOVEMBER 1999
RECIPES

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Cream Cheese Brownies

Blackout Cake

Chocolate Chip Noodle Pudding

Chocolate-Covered Caramel Apples



Sweet Spot

 


Chocolate-Covered Caramel Apples

Tips: Feeling ambitious? Every year, around the holidays, I see gigantic versions of these for sale in fancy department stores. They are always decorated within an inch of their plastic- wrapped lives, and they are very expensive. This is a slightly quieter, homemade version of these treats. They look stunning when finished, even without a lot of decoration, though you could add that, if you wish. These would be beautiful for a holiday gift.

These apples take time and patience, and this is not a project for beginers. You'll need four crisp-textured apples; they must be firm, unbruised, and with stems. You'll also need store- bought, individually wrapped caramels (which should be soft and fresh) and parchment paper. For the chocolate, you can use milk, semisweet, or a combination. I tried making these with tart apples and bittersweet chocolate, but I don't think the combination works well. These must be stored in the refrigerator, and they should be consumed within 3 or 4 days (although one friend kept his for 9 days before eating it, and he told me it was fine). You must cut these to serve them; please don't try to bite into one!

Ingredients:

  • 4 crisp apples, firm, unbruised, and with stems, each weighing 6-1/2 to 7 ounces
  • 12 ounces soft, fresh, individually wrapped caramels
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. hot water
  • 12 ounces good-quality chocolate (milk, semisweet, or a combination), chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp. solid vegetable shortening
  • About 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans, chopped medium-fine) OR toffee chunks

Wash and dry apples well, and set out on a kitchen towel at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This is especially important if the apples have been refrigerated; they must not be refrigerator-cold when dipped.

Unwrap caramels and place in small heatproof bowl. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir frequently until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water. All at once, add hot water; stir until incorporated (this will take a couple of minutes). Note: Some caramels are more stubborn about melting than others. If you cannot get your caramels smooth, turn the mixture into a powerful food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process briefly just until smooth. The caramel mixture should be a thick, gooey sauce. Cool until just slightly warm, stirring occasionally. While caramel cools, dry apples again if any condensation has formed on them.

You'll need one or two dipping bowls. Ideally, these should be about as deep as the apples are tall (no deeper); they must be able to accomodate the widest part of the apples, but shouldn't be more than an inch or two wider. I use a bowl that is perfect for width, but a bit too shallow--OK. Prepare a pan by lining the bottom with baking parchment cut to fit. The pan should be able to hold all four apples without their touching one another. If you absolutely cannot get baking parchment, line the pan bottom with several layers of plastic wrap. DO NOT use wax paper or foil (even greased foil), as the caramel will stick tenaciously to either (pay heed to the voice of experience!).

When the caramel is just slightly warm, scrape it into a dipping bowl. Place one apple into the caramel. If your bowl is a bit too shallow, like mine, you'll have to use a flat knife to spread the caramel to cover the sides of the apple as well as the top, leaving bare about an inch out in all directions from the stem. You must work fairly quickly here, as if your apples are colder than room temperature they'll thicken the caramel. If the caramel becomes too thick to work with, you can reheat it over hot water, then cool it again. Pick up the apple by the stem and remove it from the caramel--you'll probably have to pull a bit. With the knife, scrape off any extra caramel--you want a thick coating, but if it's too thick you won't have enough for all of the apples. Hold the apple by the stem and allow any excess caramel to flow back into the bowl for a minute or so, then place the apple on the parchment-lined pan. Repeat with other apples; make sure they don't touch in the pan. If a stem comes out of an apple while you're working with it, don't despair. If you're dipping the apple in caramel, scrape off any excess on the top and sides, then gently wedge a flat knife or spoon under the apple. Lightly dampen your hands, then pick up the apple, scrape off any more excess caramel, and place on the parchment. The sides of the apple will have a thinner caramel coating where your hands touched it, but that can be fixed later. Place the apples in the refrigerator and chill for 30 to 60 minutes. The caramel should set up considerably during this time.

After 30 minutes, look at the apples. If any have pools of excess caramel gathered at the bottom, are covered very unevenly with the caramel, etc., this is the time for repair. Take one apple by the stem and try to peel it off the parchment paper. It should come off; if so, replace it, then repeat this with the other apples. If any apple sticks to the parchment or no longer has a stem, dampen your hands lightly. Place one hand over the apple and lift it from the parchment. Using dampened hands, work the caramel into shape over the surface of the apple, covering any thin spots, triming off any excess at the base, etc. Don't fuss too much with the apples; remember you're going to cover them in chocolate. If you can peel an apple from the parchment by it's stem, you can work the caramel into shape over the apple surface with dampened hands while holding it by the stem. Return the "repaired" apple to the parchment and repeat with other apples, being careful not to let them touch. Return apples to refrigerator. Wash and dry your dipping bowl, or have another one ready.

In medium heatproof bowl, place chopped chocolate of choice and shortening. Place bowl over hot water on low heat (simmering water on low heat if you use all semisweet chocolate), and stir often until almost melted. Remove from heat and hot water; dry bottom and sides of bowl well. Stir chocolate until melted and smooth. Cool until just slightly warm. While chocolate cools, tear off a sheet of wax paper about 12 inches long. Place on your work surface. Place chopped nuts or toffee bits in a mound on the wax paper. Additionally, prepare a pan large enough to accomodate all of the apples without their touching one another or the pan sides by lining it with aluminum foil, shiny side up.

When chocolate has cooled sufficiently, scrape it into the dipping bowl. Remove apples from refrigerator. You'll have to work quickly here; the apples are cold and will set the chocolate rapidly. Take an apple by the stem, peel it from the parchment, and place it into the chocolate. With a flat knife, cover the apple thickly with chocolate, right up to and touching the stem. Remove the apple from the chocolate by the stem; hold it over the dipping bowl while you scrape off any excess chocolate with the flat knife. Place the chocolate-covered apple into the nuts; gently pat nuts into the chocolate-covered apple up the sides to about the widest part of the apple. Remove apple from nuts and place it on the foil-lined pan. Repeat with remaining apples. If you have trouble removing an apple from the parchment here, or if an apple has lost it's stem, DO NOT dampen your hand here--just place your hand over the apple and tear it off the parchment, then quickly place the apple into the chocolate. You might lose some caramel during this process--OK. If your apple has no stem, cover it in chocolate as above, then gently wedge it out of the dipping bowl using the flat knife and/or a spoon. Scrape off excess chocolate as best you can, then cover with nuts as above. You may have some chocolate left over--OK.

Chill apples until the chocolate is set. It is the nature of these apples that caramel might leak through the chocolate covering in one or two places. Ignore it; it merely adds to the homemade look of these beauties. When the apples are cold, store them airtight.

I like to present these wrapped individually in plastic wrap; I gather the ends of the wrap at the top of the apple, and tie them together with a bow of colored ribbon. To eat these, bring them to room temperature before serving (that's not absolutely necessary, but they're far easier to slice if they're at room temperature and I think they taste better). Remove any wrapping, then slice with a large, sharp, straight-edged knife.

4 apples


© Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you may not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.
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