Homemade honey-vanilla caramel and good dark chocolate raise the old-fashioned caramel apple to the status of a fine confection, to be sliced into wedges and savored at the Rosh Hashanah table.
Choose crisp, juicy new-crop apples that are sensational to eat in the first place. In general I like sweet-but-tart Braeburns and Fujis, and the freshest Jonathons, each in their own time. But the flavor and quality of apples change from week to week during the season, so I often preview several varieties before choosing. I always sample the “new” antique varieties revived by local farmers while I’m at it.
There is no need to temper the chocolate for this recipe if you are willing to keep the apples in the refrigerator, which keeps them firm and fresh anyhow.
Chocolate-dipped Honey-caramel Apples
2 cups sugar
¾ cups light corn syrup
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon vanilla extract
6–8 small to medium-size cold apples
1 pound chocolate, coarsely chopped 5–6 ounces chopped toasted nuts, optional
Long-handled silicone spatula or wooden spoon
6–8 Popsicle sticks
1) Combine sugar, corn syrup, honey and salt in a heavy-bottom 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the insides of the pot with a wet pastry brush or a wad of paper towel dipped in water. Cover and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile rinse the spoon or spatula before using it again later. Uncover the pot and wash the sides once more. Insert a candy thermometer without letting it touch the bottom of the pot. Cook, uncovered, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 305˚ F, 5–10 minutes. Meanwhile bring the cream to a simmer and keep it hot until needed.
2) When the sugar mixture reaches 305˚ F, turn the heat off. Stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically; be careful. Turn the burner back on under the pot, and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 250 F, about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the caramel to a smaller pot or heatproof bowl deep enough to dip the apples. Cool for 10 minutes.
3) Impale each apple on a stick. Holding the stick, dip an apple into the caramel, allowing the excess to flow back into the pot. Set the apple on a sheet of wax paper. Repeat to coat each apple. If the caramel gets too cool it will slide entirely off of the apple! If necessary, reheat gently (without simmering), then continue to dip. Let the dipped apples set until caramel is cool and firm, at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate them.
4) Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring frequently until almost entirely melted. Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted and warm, not hot. Dip each apple into the chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to flow back into the bowl. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Set the dipped apples on tray lined with wax paper. Refrigerate to set the chocolate, keep the apples fresh and crisp, and keep the chocolate from discoloring.
Excerpted from “Chocolate Holidays” by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2001
Alice Medrich is a chocolate connoisseur and the award-winning author of numerous cookbooks, including “Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate” (Artisan, 2013) and “Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts” (Artisan, 2012).