Candy Apples

Candy apples, rank and fileI really want to like candy apples.  They are so closely associated with fall and carnivals and country fairs, they seem like a fantastic way to celebrate our local apples.

In practice they are usually disappointing.  They are often died a garish red.  The candy coating is either adamantine, or it sticks to your teeth and threatens to pull out your molars.  And usually the fruit is so large that it cannot be eaten comfortably from the end of a stick.  You have to unhinge your jaw, which compromises your ability to break the adamantine candy coating.

In theory all these problems can be solved.

Let’s talk apples.  Any good eating-apple is a good candy-apple.  Firm, crisp, juicy.  Apples that may be a touch sour to eat out of hand can still make good candy apples.  As I hinted above, small apples are key.  I say 2.5″ in diameter at the most.  Edmonton is awash in many varieties of smaller apple that you can comfortably fit between your teeth.

As an aside, to make candy apples you have to use whole, intact apples; you can’t use segments or slices.  The skin of the apple acts as a moisture barrier between the flesh of the fruit and the hard candy.  If the hard candy comes into contact with moisture it starts to melt.  Candied slices of apple will deteriorate within 10 minutes of the sugar setting.

Candy coating.  Here we use white sugar, corn syrup to prevent crystallization, and a bit of water to slow down the caramelization.  The name of the game is hard crack.  The syrup needs to reach 310°F.  Any lower and the the candy will not be brittle, and will stick to the teeth.

Most candy apples are dyed an intense, impossible red.  Personally I think they look better without food colouring, as you can see the natural colour of the apple.  Edmonton-grown apples come in a shocking array of colours, from gecko green to straw yellow to lipstick red.

I know it’s a bit crafty, Pinterest-y, even Martha Stewart-y, but I love using twigs from an apple tree as the sticks for candy apples.

 

Candy Apples

Ingredients

  • 480 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 180 g water
  • 8-12 apples, firm, crispy specimens not more than 2.5″ across

Procedure

  1. Skewer each of the apples with a thick twig from an apple tree.  Line them up on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot.  Stir briefly to moisten all the sugar.  Turn the heat to medium high.  Monitor the temperature of the syrup with a candy thermometer.
  3. As soon as the syrup temperature reaches 310°F, remove the pot from the stove.  Working quickly, dip each of the apples in the syrup, rolling the apple to ensure the entire surface is coated with the candy.
  4. Allow the syrup to cool and harden before serving.  Obviously.

Butterscotch

Homemade butterscotch sauceThe Origins of Butterscotch.  Though butterscotch is common in Scotland, the “scotch” in the name does not refer to that country.  In fact “scotch” is a very old English word for an etching, or scratch.  Another instance of this suffix is in “hopscotch”, the game in which children jump across etchings or chalk-marks on the ground.

Scotch is also an old style of candy.  To make scotches, sugar is boiled to hard crack, then flavoured and poured onto a buttered slab or dish.  Portioning the individual candies while the sugar is still hot would yield sloppy candies with stringy edges, so once the sugar is partially cooled, the candies are marked out by cutting lines partway down into the mass.  Once the sugar is fully cooled, the marked tablets can be gently tapped on the counter and broken into tidy pieces.[1]  Butterscotch was once made by boiling brown sugar with butter to hard crack and portioning the candies in this manner.

Butterscotch as flavour.  Nowadays in North America butterscotch, like caramel, is thought of more as a flavour than a specific candy or preparation.  I grew up, for instance, eating butterscotch pudding after school, and butterscotch ripple ice cream.  The flavour of true butterscotch is browned butter and caramelized brown sugar.  A touch of salt also helps.

 

Butterscotch

Master Ratio – 1:3:3 butter, dark brown sugar, heavy cream

Ingredients

  • 2 oz unsalted butter
  • 6 oz dark brown sugar
  • 6 oz heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Procedure

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot.  Add the brown sugar and turn the heat to medium-high.  As you stir, the sugar will go from looking like dry sand, to wet sand, and after a few minutes it will look like bubbling lava.  Cook until you can smell the browned butter and the caramelized sugar, the hallmark aromas of butterscotch!  This will take maybe 10 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the heavy cream.  It will boil vigorously when it hits the hot sugar-butter mix.
  3. Cool to room temperature and season.  Add the vanilla.

 

Notes and Refrences

  1. This process is described in the butterscotch recipe found here: McNeill, F. Marian.  The Scots Kitchen.  ©2010 The Estate of F. Marian McNeill.  Birlinn Ltd, Edinburgh, Scotland.  Page 242.