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Red hots

(article, Roz Cummins)

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A few years ago, when a friend of mine hosted a CD-release party with a Halloween theme, she asked me to bring some kind of seasonal treat. I decided to make candy apples and my friend Anne-Marie offered to hang out and cook them with me. Neither of us had ever made candy apples before, but we assumed that we could figure it out. I mean, how hard could it be? Lots of people make candy apples.

[%image promo-image float=left width=250 credit="Photo: Deanna Dement-Myers" caption="Apples coated in a glossy candy syrup."]

I wanted to make the glossy red kind, not the caramel-coated version. All of the recipes I found online called for corn syrup, sugar, and water, in slightly different proportions. Many called for red food coloring and melted cinnamon candies, a k a “red hots.” I left out the dye and the hots, and melted the remaining ingredients slowly until the sugar completely dissolved into a clear liquid, ever so slightly caramel-colored. I added just a pinch of cinnamon for flavor.

[%image caramel float=right width=200 credit="Photo: iStockphoto/Karcich" caption="Turn the candy syrup into caramel coating."]

I washed and dried our green and red apples very carefully and inserted long, sharp skewers (purchased at a cake-supply store) along their cores. Anne-Marie and I were ready: our apples would each get a clear coating of sugar syrup and be transformed from ordinary fruit into festive treat.

But I had melted the sugar in a very wide stockpot, which meant that the syrup wasn’t deep enough to cover each apple. Anne-Marie and I fretted for a while over our half-dipped apples before Anne-Marie said, “I know! Let’s tip the pot at an angle so the syrup will cover the apples.” Well, duh. Did I mention that she and I were both humanities majors?

We set the apples out to dry on a buttered sheet of silver foil. They looked fabulous and tasted good. And there was still plenty of syrup left, so I added heavy cream, just a bit at a time, until I had a nice caramel sauce.

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That sauce was the most delicious caramel I had ever tasted: the cinnamon really gave it extra depth, and while it was sweet, it wasn’t sugary-sweet like candy. It had a much more mature and mellow flavor, like a snifter of smoky Scotch. And it tasted great drizzled over slices of freshly cut Granny Smith and McIntosh apples.

At the party, the apples were a big hit, shiny and crunchy. They were so popular, in fact, that I’m thinking of making them again this year. And why stop at Halloween? Bring on the winter holidays!

p(bio). Roz Cummins is a food writer based in Boston.


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