In the good ol’ days of Halloween before we insisted on tamper-proof treats, caramel apples and trick-or-treating went hand in hand. They were the peanut butter cups of their day – the most sought after treat in the plastic jack-o-lantern. But even the end of the wrapper-free candy era did not mark the end of caramel apples; they continue to be a seasonal staple.
Fall has always been the perfect time to sink your teeth into a caramel apple. The freshest apples make their way into the grocery stores in autumn, and there’s no better way to enjoy a fresh serving of fruit than by coating it in a layer of sweetness. You can indulge in the tasty confection and reap the health benefits of fiber and vitamin C. What fun-size candy bar can match that?
Our fondness for caramel apples may also have something to do with our national heritage. As it turns out, the caramel apple is just as American as apple pie. In the 1950s, Dan Walker, a sales representative for Kraft Foods, first dipped an apple into a pot of his company’s melted caramel candies. The rest, as they say, is history.
Though caramel apples are a relatively recent phenomenon, the practice of candying apples dates back to ancient times. Before refrigeration, people used honey and sugar as preserving agents. The candied apple, a precursor to the caramel apple by about fifty years, is robed in a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, water, cinnamon and red food coloring that hardens as it cools, but it ultimately lacks the gooey chewy goodness the caramel provides.
Today’s caramel apples have grown up. They’ve gone gourmet. You see, once you’ve coated an apple in caramel, you can dress it anyway you please. For instance, Outrageous Caramel Apples are dipped in B. Lloyds nuts and then topped with a milk chocolate and white chocolate drizzle.
Here’s the rule: If you can crush it, you can coat with it. Replace peanuts with pistachios or salted pretzels, or crush up your favorite candy bar for a coating. Even shredded coconut puts a tasty twist on the traditional. Experiment with a variety of apples to see which brand yields the best results. While the tartness of a Granny Smith nicely contrasts with the sweet, buttery caramel, some people prefer the Red Delicious’ more neutral flavor. If you’re looking to create a more manageably sized treat, opt for small Gala or Pink Lady apples. Whatever you do, aim for creativity. Come up with your own caramel-apple inspiration and push the boundaries of tradition and taste.