Dynamic duo: Apples and caramel aren't just for dipping

·7 min read

Sep. 26—Peanut butter and jelly.

Macaroni and cheese.

Bacon and eggs ... well, bacon and anything.

These are just a few of the food world's perfect pairings.

And here's another one: the seasonal sensation of caramel and apples.

Individually, the buttery candies and crisp fruits are wonderful. But put them together and it's pure alchemy: the sum is so much greater, even, than its already excellent parts.

Credit Dan Walker, a Kraft Foods employee, with combining commercially-available caramels and apples into one sweet treat back in the 1950s.

As Gillie Houston wrote for the site MyRecipes.com, he "melted down some of the company's large stock of soft caramels left over after Halloween, and dipped apples into the mixture as a healthier and crunchier counterpart to the soft candy."

Mr. Walker absolutely deserves applause and accolades for playing matchmaker between apples and caramels. But according to the Food Timeline, an extensive resource site for culinary historians, "The practice of coating fruit in sugar syrup dates to ancient times. Honey and sugar were used as preserving agents."

The oldest recipe that's been discovered for apples coated in a caramel-like sugar dates to 1919, and was published in Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher by W.O. Rigby:

"Apples on a stick: Take small apples and stick in each one at the top, a small wooden skewer, such as butchers use to pin roasts. Now cook a batch of Molasses Taffy to 280 degrees F. Then dip the apple in the hot batch so as to cover it completely. Let the surplus syrup drip off, then stand them on a slab until cold."

The site notes that historians "generally agree that toffee apples (aka taffy apples, caramel candied apples, candy apples, lollipop apples) probably date to the late 19th century." But they admit that this is, so far, "difficult to prove in print."

Given that it's the time of year to celebrate caramel apples, we're offering four variations on the theme. But instead of offering caramel-coated apples, we're upsetting the apple cart just a bit.

We've got apples. We've got caramel.

We just don't necessarily have them in the familiar form.

Caramel Apple-Stuffed Snickerdoodle Skillet Cookie is a warm, ooey, gooey family-style dessert meant to be scooped out of the pan and then served with another scoop — of ice cream — on top.

Spiced Apple Cider Caramel Corn with Candied Pecans takes another perennial favorite — popcorn — and coats it in cider-scented sweetness before mixing it with crunchy, cinnamon-sugared nuts.

Caramel Apple Cider Cheesecake Bars throw yet another beloved dessert into the mix to make rich creamy, cider-infused lusciousness that's served drizzled with caramel sauce.

And finally, Caramel Apple Nachos are merely deconstructed caramel apples, sliced and smothered with all the sweet 'n' salty coatings — chocolate, pretzels, sprinkles, peanuts, and more — that your heart could possibly desire.

So, how do you like them apples?

Those caramel apples, that is.

Caramel Apple-Stuffed Snickerdoodle Skillet Cookie

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups prepared apple pie filling

3/4 cup prepared caramel sauce

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Ice cream, for serving

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another mixing bowl, cream together the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition, then mix in the vanilla. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until combined, then refrigerate dough, covered, for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet.

Divide the dough in half. Press one portion of the dough into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared skillet. On a sheet of parchment paper, shape the remaining portion into a disc the size of the skillet; refrigerate.

Bake the bottom layer for 15 to 20 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven.

Pour half the caramel sauce over the cookie base to within 1 inch of the edge. Top with the apple pie filling, then drizzle with the remaining caramel.

Remove the dough disc from the refrigerator and carefully place it over the top of the filling, gently pressing at the sides with a fork to seal.

In small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; sprinkle over the top of the cookie.

Return the skillet to the oven and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and set. Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving with ice cream, if desired.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Source: Adapted from tornadoughalli.com

Spiced Apple Cider Caramel Corn with Candied Pecans

Pecans:

1 cup raw pecans

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Popcorn:

1 cup apple cider

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of kosher salt

8 cups popped popcorn

For the pecans: Toast the pecans in the oil in a small skillet over medium heat until just fragrant. Add the sugar, salt, and spices; toss to coat, then cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar melts and the pecans are coated in syrup. Set aside to cool.

For the popcorn: Preheat the oven to 300F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, boil the apple cider over high heat until it has reduced by half. Add the oil, corn syrup, brown sugar, spices, and salt; bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the caramel darkens and thickens. Place the popcorn in a large mixing bowl, pour the caramel over it, and stir with a spatula to coat the popcorn.

Spread the popcorn out on the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring at the 10-minute mark. Immediately sprinkle the candied pecans over the popcorn, stir to combine, and let cool. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: 9 cups

Source: Adapted from heatherchristo.com

Caramel Apple Cider Cheesecake Bars

Topping:

3 cups apple cider

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1/3 cup prepared caramel sauce

Crust:

8 ounces gingersnap cookies

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small saucepan, boil cider, sugar, and cinnamon stick together until thick and syrupy and reduced to about 3/4 cup. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick.

While the cider cooks down, lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

In a food processor, pulse the cookies and butter together until finely ground. Gently press into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Wipe out the bowl of the food processor and place the cream cheese and eggs into it; blend until smooth. With the food processor running, pour in the cooled cider and blend until smooth.

Pour filling over the prepared crust. Bake until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving, topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce.

Yield: 9 to 12 bars

Source: Adapted from Jess Smith, inquiringchef.com

Caramel Apple Nachos

1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff

1 11-ounce bag caramels, unwrapped

3 tablespoons water

5 assorted apples, sliced

Toppings: chopped peanuts, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, crushed candy bars, toffee bits, broken pretzels, etc.

Heat the marshmallow fluff in a microwave for 45 seconds or until softened, then stir until smooth and pourable.

Combine the caramels and water in a bowl and microwave until melted, then stir until the caramel is smooth.

Arrange the sliced apples on a plate and pour the caramel and marshmallow sauces over them, then sprinkle with the toppings. Serve immediately.

Yield: 10 servings

Source: Adapted from butterwithasideofbread.com

First Published September 26, 2021, 11:30am

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