Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tricks for These Treats

A Candy Maker’s Kitchen Must Haves, Chewy Caramels & More! 
We’re plowing through October, leaving fall leaves in our wake. Is it just me, or is 2012 wrapping up faster than a re-gift? All joking aside, have you thought much about the upcoming holidays? My chewy caramels are not just fun to have on hand Halloween night, but make nice Christmas presents too. Whether it’s now or later, rolls of wax paper showing up at the house can mean only one thing: Mom is making caramels to wrap up like penny store candy!

Not to knock the candy companies, but the incredible sweetness and goodness of homemade caramels cannot be matched, and that’s why this post focuses on tricks for these treats; making them with ease is a matter of two Kitchen Must Haves: 1) a candy thermometer and 2) poultry shears that do double duty cutting through the chewiest of cookies, caramels and bars you’ll be making this holiday season.


I like to use my slow cooker or double broiler when I make caramels—the deeper the pot the better. As your confection bubbles away, you’ll want to stick the candy thermometer in for a reading of around 250 degrees; this is the temperature that allows you to dredge a spoon through. Note: you’ll be looking to see that the track of yummy caramel doesn’t fill back up immediately—then it’s time to spread your treasure into the baking dish you’ve coated in vegetable oil spray and wax paper—or better yet, a Silpat Liner; a priority Kitchen Must Have since I started in the cooking biz. Once the caramel cools, you can cut pieces for wrapping later on, or….

You COULD skip the cooling and cutting, and dip up to 10 apples in the caramel while it’s still hot and melted in the pot. I think offering caramel apples is the ultimate TV viewing snack when ABC puts on its annual It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” I’ve checked TV listings and the exact date is not yet available, but do touch base with me on Facebook to see my near daily notes (and admitted obsession with) sitting down to this sixties classic with an apple on a stick. I think it’s airing somewhere around October 27th this year.
I’ve decided to make a make a day of prepping a half dozen apples or so before show time—and my readers, especially the ones who cook with kids—might want to do the same. It’s got great memory making potential! Whether you prepare the caramel the old-fashioned way, or tear open a bag, the Youtube instructional video you’ll find posted to my Nana Network gives the best dipping and decorating 411 on candied apples you’ve ever seen. I hope you’ll visit the page next time you’re on Facebook, “like us” and submit a fall photo for the contest we’re running until Halloween. The prize is a $25 gift card to Yankee Candle—where candied apple scented tallows are bound to be on sale!   

P.S. Nothing wrong with paying a local treat shop to do all this—I love the Confectionary at Disney that lets you custom create your candied apple! But if you decide to save a ton of $$ and make your own, feel free to write me with your experience. And don’t forget to count the apples in the Charlie Brown special! I think the party dunks for a few…          

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