By Jason Shriner, The Aubergine Chef
When I was in school, one of my favorite things about baking was creating foods that I thought would be impossible to make at home. As an instructor, passing on those revelations is exciting and inspiring. Yet candy making seemed to be unattainable even as an adult. My chocolate and sugar lab in school was one of the most complex as the ingredients and finished products were frustratingly fickle. But one day I stumbled upon a very simple candied apple recipe and after that working with sugar became much less intimidating.
The key to working with sugar is temperature. Too cold and your candy may not set hard enough or it may be too slow moving to use properly. Too hot and you may accidentally caramelize your sugar or you’ll get an undesirable set. While caramel may sound appetizing, remember that making caramel should be intentional. If you aren’t making caramel with purpose, your candy might end up with an off or burnt flavor. Plus undiluted caramel sets notoriously hard.
Since temperature is so important you must get a thermometer to be truly accurate. A candy thermometer works, but I always recommend a digital thermometer with a probe. They are extremely reliable and are often equipped with timers and alert systems to tell you when the probe measures your desired temperature. You might want to shelve your precious infrared instant-read thermometers this time. The bubbles on the surface of the sugar distort their readings.
Don’t attempt to substitute the corn syrup. Corn syrup is full of oligosaccharides, long strands of glucose molecules, and those long strands prevent crystallization, inhibit caramelization, and encourage even flow.
If you’ve been curious about working with sugar, candied apples make a great introduction. The recipe is also open to experimentation. You can substitute most fruit juices and spices to change the flavor of the syrup, and any hard, smooth fruits – like pears and grapes – candy well. Remember most of all that this is an adult activity. At 305° F, it’s not worth the risk to get children directly involved. Let them enjoy the finished apples and you’ll both be stress-free and happy.
Jason Shriner owns the baking & pastry blog The Aubergine Chef, which contains free videos and recipes. He also teaches baking classes at the Manassas Park Community Center. You can visit his blog at www.TheAubergineChef.com.
Coats up to 8 apples
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup fruit juice (like apple or pomegranate)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (if using apple juice)
8 Apples, Granny Smith or McIntosh
2 cup roasted and toasted nuts (like almonds or cashews)
1. Wash and dry the apples. Deeply insert heavy duty craft sticks or heavy duty forks into the tops of the apples through the core.
2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, juice, and cinnamon (if using) into a pot and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until the sugar mixture reaches 305° F. Use a large pot as the syrup can bubble up to twice its size.
3. Dip the apples into the candy mixture: Tilt the pan toward you and rotate the skewer to coat the outside of the apple. Let excess sugar drip off. Flying drips could burn you if you shake.
4. Dip the candied apple into the nuts if using.
5. If needed, warm the syrup over low heat to restore fluidity. Be careful not to cook it or caramelize it.
6. Allow the apples to cool completely on a parchment paper lined sheet pan that has been lightly sprayed with pan release.
7. After cooled, package and store at room temperature for 5 days. Refrigeration is not recommended. It may cause candy coating to get sticky.
To clean out hard sugar, boil lots of water in the pot.