Saturday, September 25, 2010
Apple season is here, and I love to see local harvests displayed at the market. This small variety caught my eye, and I knew right away that they were destined for a candy coating.
Candied apples have a special place in my heart. They bring back childhood memories of state fairs and playful times. They are also incredibly beautiful and have an almost fairy tale magic with their glass-encased appearance. Today I went foraging for twigs under the big oak tree on our property and came away with an interesting bunch of knobby stems. I think they make a charming replacement for the standard Popsicle stick.
After covering the entire batch of apples, I had a good amount of candy coating left over. To my delight, it spun easily into wispy angel hair-like nests.
Of course, they are just as pretty and delicious without the spun sugar.
The maple flavoring oil I used is from LorAnn. Adding it to the boiling sugar made my entire kitchen smell like hot, buttery maple syrup. That's one of the the things I love about fall baking, it is absolutely heartwarming!
My one complaint about candied treats is that they aren't easy to eat, particularly that first bite. I've found that one good whack on the countertop will break the glass-like encasement enough to peel away a few candy bits. From that starting point, it's much easier to get a good bite.
Maple Candied Apples [click for printable version]
8-10 small apples, organic (avoid food grade wax on store bought apples, the candy won't stick to it)
8-10 sturdy wooden stems
1/2 cup clear (light) corn syrup
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/4-1/2 tsp. maple candy flavoring oil
Grease a jelly-roll pan well with vegetable shortening and set aside.
Clean and dry the apples well. Remove the apple stems and carefully punch a guide hole for the twigs with a knife or skewer. Insert twigs into guide holes, and lift each apple to make sure each can securely be picked up. Set aside.
Combine the corn syrup, water and sugar in a medium saucepan with a handle. Heat at medium-high until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring mixture to a boil.
The sugar mixture will take about 20-25 minutes to reach 302 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. This is known as the hard-crack stage. I highly recommend you use a thermometer, but if you want to tempt fate you can use a glass of cold water to gauge the hardness of the sugar. I've tried this in the past, with disastrous results.
Once the correct temperature has been reached, remove the pan from the burner and add the maple flavoring. Mix well.
Dip apples, one at a time, swirling until completely coated in syrup. Hold apples above saucepan to let excess candy drain off. As you work, you may need to tilt the saucepan to pool the candy to one side. This will help ensure all apples get a full coating as your mixture gets lower.
Place the apples on the prepared jelly-roll pan and allow to dry.
Although I didn't get any pictures of the sugar-spinning in action (I'd need an extra pair of arms) I'll try to explain the process as best I can. Have everything (as stated below) set up before you begin the initial candying of the apples. You'll be working fast, and the sugar will set up quickly.
Place a sheet of parchment paper in the bottom of your sink. Securely tape a wooden spoon to the counter top with the spoon handle hanging over the parchment. Spray the handle with cooking spray or grease with vegetable shortening. Use two forks or a ball whisk to pick up the sugar mixture and gauge the behavior of the candy. When the candy spins a thread, begin waving your utensil(s) vigorously back and forth across the spoon handle. Dip utensil(s) again in melted candy and repeat waving technique several times until you have amassed a great amount of spun sugar. Gently slide the spun sugar off the spoon handle and pick up the extra threads that have accumulated on the parchment below. Form the spun sugar into a manageable nest and break it into pieces. Top the set candied apples with spun sugar pieces.
**Do not attempt spinning sugar on a humid day. It will melt away before your eyes!