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by Liren Baker

Liren Baker is the voice behind the blog Kitchen Confidante, where she shares taste and inspiration in the kitchen. Inspired by the beauty of food, what it represents, what it invokes, and what we can create out of it, she shares recipes and images that remind her of her heritage, her childhood in New York, and the vibrant culinary culture she has learned to embrace in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she currently lives.

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  • caramel apples
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • "Mom, did you ever go to a carnival?" I reminded her that we go to their school carnival every year. "No, like when you were little?"

    Ah, yes. The fall carnival. I sure did, and I told her all about the rickety rides, the ones that are scarily assembled overnight, the pinnacle of which was the Ferris wheel. Looking back, I wonder how safe those rides were.

    There were the games and the loud arcade, and of course, there was the food. No visit to the carnival was complete without a tower of cotton candy or a greasy bag of sugary zeppole. This carnival was in New York, after all, and zeppoles were de rigeur.

    But of all the treats I looked for, I was often disappointed that many of the carnivals of my youth didn't have candied apples. I mean, what kind of carnival doesn't have candied apples? It was a sweet I never got to taste until I was much older.
  • granny smith apples
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • Once I did, I was hooked. A freshly sliced tart apple coated with a heavenly caramel was everything I hoped it would be. But when it came to making it at home, I was a little disheartened.

    The process of working with caramel always excited me, but when it comes to making caramel apples, it really is quite necessary to use a product like corn syrup, as it works to prevent crystallization. So I actually avoid making it, as I do my best to not use corn syrup in my cooking. I found that using honey is an alternative, but I'm not keen on the honeyed taste in a caramel apple. It just doesn't seem right.
  • how to make caramel apples
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • I was excited to find sugar cane syrup, an invert sugar that is more naturally derived. There is even a way to make it at home, if you're so inclined. But with a little sleuthing, perhaps you can find this locally.
  • how to make caramel apples
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • As my sugars bubbled into a milky amber, the caramel began to look like a dreamy pool in which to dip my little apples. The process of dipping and coating was maybe even more fun than eating it. And the flavor? Well, just perfect. Rich and creamy, buttery and sweet, you can say that I'm finally making up for lost time. Who needs a carnival?
  • caramel apples
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • Caramel Apples

    Makes 10-12.

    A candy thermometer is essential when making candied apples. I highly recommend this small investment in your kitchen arsenal.

    10-12 small Granny Smith apples (ideally organic, without any waxed coating)
    10-12 candy or craft sticks
    2 cups packed light brown sugar
    1 3/4 cups heavy cream
    3/4 cup cane sugar syrup
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
    2 teaspoons kosher salt

    Prepare the apples, washing well and drying. If there is a wax coating, try as best as possible to remove the coating when cleaning. Remove the stems and drive a candy/craft stick into each core, making sure it is firmly in place.

    Prepare an ice bath and keep it near the stove. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, sprayed with cooking spray if desired, and also keep it near your stove and work space.

    In a medium saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, heavy cream, cane sugar syrup, butter, and salt. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring periodically. Watch the temperature using a candy thermometer and let it continue bubbling until the caramel reaches 250 degrees F.

    Once the caramel has reached the ideal temperature, carefully lift the saucepan and dip it into the ice bath for one minute, then place on a heatproof surface. Stir well, incorporating the thicker, more chilled caramel at the bottom of the saucepan with the hotter caramel on the surface of the pan.

    Begin dipping your apples into the caramel, coating it evenly. Let some excess drip off for a few seconds, then turn the apple over so you are holding it like a lollipop. Hold for a few seconds more, allowing the caramel to stay on the apple longer. Place the apple on the parchment-lined baking pan. Continue with all the apples; if the caramel cools too quickly, you can slowly reheat the caramel over low heat while stirring so that it is
    thinner again.

    Let the apples set in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Store them in the refrigerator if made a few days in advance.

    Recipe from Basic Caramel Apple Recipe, Aida Mollenkamp, Chow.com.
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