Tag Archives: apples

Mini Candy Apples

22 Dec

I think I might have candy on my mind! Actually, I kind of do … I am devising a Yee Sang Cake for O’Gourmet Food Hall, and I have been looking at innocuous and innocent fruits with an evil candy-ing glint in my eye. Heheh. I love the candied caramelised oranges I made yesterday, and today, I decided to try another route – candied apples. But not just any apples, mind you, sweet, succulent, fragile miniature apples from Japan. These little babies are just so beautiful – perfect in miniature – that I could not bear to cut them up and cook them.

I remembered growing up in the US, one of the greatest fall and winter pleasures were ┬ácandied apples we would get from farm stalls. These candies are the stuff of memory – and the taste of them conjures up cold, crisp weather, puffs of breath, that clean smoky scent in the air, sky blue (or white with coming snow) and immeasurably beautiful. I adore candy apples – for the memory and the joy they represent.

These candy apples – large or small – would make lovely home-made Christmas presents. They are quick and relatively easy, they transport grownups back to the innocent pleasures of childhood, and they can be decorated in all sorts of ways – double dip these candy apples in ground nuts, bits of chocolate, crushed candy cane … let your imagination go wild! Or, serve them as part of a Christmas buffet or dinner. Such pretty pleasures.

Candy apples are not that difficult to make, but you really need a sugar thermometer to evaluate exactly where your candy is going. And you need to be brave (hot sugar is very dangerous), and have a sure hand. Work quickly, surely and have everything at the ready. I love how the hot candy clings to the apple skin – and lightly softens the apple flesh. When you bite into one of these gorgeous beauties, you get crackling shards of cinnamon candy, and then soft yielding apple. Lovely!

Makes 8 – 10 large or 12 – 16 small candy apples

  • 12 – 16 small apples (or 8 – 10 large) – try and get the small ones if you can, but if not, a strong red skinned apple is fine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)
  • A few drops red food colouring (optional – I used India Tree natural food colour)

Line a baking pan or jelly roll tin with parchment or wax paper.

Wash the apples extremely well. I placed all the apples in a large bowl, squirted in some fruit and vegetable cleaner, and covered with water. I let the apples sit for about five minutes before draining and drying the apples very well.

Place the completely dried apples onto the prepared tin, and piece each apple with a skewer. For the tiny apples, I used double toothpicks.

Set the apples aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water. Stir well to ensure that everything is combined.

Place the saucepan over medium high heat, and bring the sugar/water mixture to a boil, swirling the pan a few times to make sure everything is mixed well. Dont stir – sugar crystals will form, and this is not a great final candy look. Use your candy thermometer, and allow the sugar syrup to come to 149C (300F).

Take off the heat, and have everything at the ready. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, and mix well (a silicone spatula is fine). Add the vanilla and red food colouring (stand back as it will bubble up), and stir well again.

Using an oven mit, pick up the saucepan, and tilt it so that the candy forms a deep well in one side. Pick up an apple by the toothpick, or skewer, and submerge the apple as completely as possible in the candy. As you remove the apple from the candy, twirl it, and place it back onto the parchment paper.

If you are adding another topping, dip immediately before placing back on the parchment paper.

Repeat with the rest of the apples, and allow to air dry for at least a few hours.

Remove the skewers or toothpicks, and serve as is or wrap in parchment paper to give as lovely gifts.

Apple Butter

17 Oct

Today, we went to a farm and picked our own pumpkins for Halloween! It was an amazing outing – Z got to see her first live goats, pigs and cow, and we took a hayride. It was really fun, and such a pleasure to be outside on a sunny, but cold autumn day! One of the best parts for me was wandering through the farmstall, checking out all the produce. They have an apple orchard, so you can pick your own apples, or else just take home huge bags of picked apples. All kinds of squash and pumpkins, lovely ripe tomatoes, kale, fresh baked breads… and they had apple butter!

Oh, do I love this stuff. Apple butter is completely vegan – a kind of cooked down version of apple sauce. Its very thick, rich, dark caramelised brown. It tastes, as Julia said, like Christmas – apples and spices and everything nice! Its a wonderful substitute for fats (vegetable oil or butter) in baked goods – and its phenomenal on all kinds of breakfast dishes – from oatmeal to yogurt to waffles to plain old toast. Grilled cheese sandwiches (especially brie) reach heights unimagined with a slather of apple butter. Honestly, try some!

This recipe for apple butter takes a while. Its an afternoon of cooking when you find yourself at home, and its cold outside or rainy, and you have a surfeit of apples. I always try and make this with at least two different kinds of apples, just to give it depth of flavour. And choose your spices yourself – I give you what I use, but feel free to mix it up, add, subtract or whatever tastes good to you! For depth of flavour, I also use different sugars and honey. And remember, this is totally a guide recipe – if your apples are incredibly sweet, you wont need as much sugar. But do note that the sugar is used to create the caramelised effect in the butter, and also to encourage thickening. Dont use too little or it wont set properly.

Cook this apple butter with a view to caning or freezing it. You will have loads, and its wonderful to have in the fridge when you just want something warm, spicy, indulgent and yet relatively healthy. Enjoy!

Makes about 6 cups

  • 10 – 12 large apples, mixed variety (about 4 lbs/ 2 kgs)
  • 1 cup apple cider (or apple juice – purest you can find plus 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of sugar – half light brown sugar, half white sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 – 2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp each nutmeg, allspice and ginger (according to your preference)
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice and grated peel of 1 lemon

Peel, core and chop the apples fine. Put in a large pot (I usually use my oval enamel Le Creuset). Add the apple cider, and over medium high heat bring the apples and liquid to the boil. Once everything is bubbling, bring the heat down to medium low, and simmer until the apples are soft and tender, about half an hour.

Once the apples are very soft, use an immersion blender (or food processor or even a potato masher) to puree the apples. You now have a version of apple sauce!

Taste. Add the sugar, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves, salt and lemon and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, remembering that a long slow cooking will caramelise everything and make all the flavours much more intense.

You have a choice now. You can bake the apple sauce in the oven (set quite low – about 125 C / 250 F) for about 3 – 4 hours, stirring every half an hour or so. Or you can cook it over low heat on the stove top, stirring often for up to 2 hours. I prefer this way because I love the scent and the warmth of the apple butter filling the house, and I believe that constant stirring makes for a smoother butter.

Either way, by the end of the cooking time, you will have a very thick, very caramelised dark brown butter, scented with spice and tasting of the essence of apple. Enjoy the fruits of your labour, and give some to friends so they can taste your love too!