The Ultimate Guide to Candy Apples
Caramel Apples: The Apples
The first thing to remember for caramel apples is the type of apple to get: Granny Smith. There’s no other apple that will give you that tart, sour flavor that is matched perfectly with the rich, subtle sweetness of the caramel. Fresh apples (from farmers' markets or picked yourself) are best because they don’t have the waxy film of store-bought ones that makes them hard to them coat with caramel. If you do buy them at the store, make sure you give them a good wash, and Toth suggests letting them come to room temperature before coating in caramel so that they’re not too cold for the hot candy.
If you think you have to make your own caramel since you’re making your own caramel apples, you’re wrong. Trust us on this one, store-bought caramels are best, and are usually found as little cubes wrapped in individual plastic wrapping. Their manufactured qualities give you that caramel consistency you’d find on a store-bought caramel apple.
Dip your apples directly into the bowl with the melted caramel. Toth recommends scraping the bottom part clean so that they don’t become a sticky mess and set up nicely on a baking sheet.
While we always thought chopped walnuts were a must for caramel apples, Toth encouraged us to experiment and try different kinds until we got the flavor that we liked. We ended up going with chopped almonds for ours, because we loved the buttery nuttiness they gave to the caramel coating. The best way to roll your apples is on a flat surface, and Toth recommends coating the bottom of the apples well so they have something flavorful to set in.
Hard Candy Apples
Just like with our caramel apples, the starting point for this recipe is the type of apple to get, which is Fuji or Red Delicious. These round varieties have the ideal texture to balance the hard candy shell — soft and juicy. Their color only enhances the red sheen that the candy apple has, making them as beautiful to look at as they are delicious to eat.
For the candy coating, Warren makes a regular candy concoction but adds red cinnamon candies to it to get a specific flavor and color for her hard candy apples. This step may be the reason we’ve never been able to get a candy apple to taste and look as good as the real deal.
Who better to ask for candy-making tips than a pastry chef, and Warren was a great resource for at-home pointers. Because many people are without a candy thermometer at home, she told us to test the candy using a bowl of ice water. If the candy hardens immediately, it’s ready to be used for coating.
Coating the Apples
Coating hard candy apples can be tricky business because the sugar mixture sets up quickly off the heat. The best method is to use the saucepan for help, letting it do the work for you by tilting it to swirl around the apple when you dip the skewer into the pan. Once you have an even coat, Warren recommends twirling the apple several times so that the candy can even itself out and create a perfectly smooth globe.