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Friday, January 25, 2008

Candied Apples

4 to 5 medium crisp red apples at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
6 to 8 cinnamon disc candies, crushed, or 1/3 cup of red hots

Generously butter a cookie sheet and set aside. Wash and dry apples thoroughly and remove stems. Insert a wooden skewer in stem end of each apple. The bamboo skewers used for shishkebabs do just fine, but may require two or three lengths to be strong enough to hold the apple. Cut the length you need with a strong pair of scissors. Glue the lengths together or tie them with ribbon to prevent pinched fingers.

To crush the disc candies, place them in a plastic sandwich bag and give them a few sharp whacks with the broad side of a hammer. Perform this step on a cutting board, so you don't mar your counter top.

Mix sugar, water, corn syrup and food coloring in a 2-quart saucepan.

Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and boil gently - without stirring - until mixture reaches 290 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount of mixture dropped into a dish of very cold (but not iced) water separates into threads that are hard, but not brittle. Use your fingers to form the syrup into a ball, remove from the water and gently pull apart. If the ball pulls into hard threads that don't immediately break, the syrup has reached the right stage. Don't rush the process - it may take 15 minutes or so for the syrup to reach the right temperature. When the syrup is right, stir in crushed candies or red hots until melted and well mixed. Dip apples quickly into syrup, twirling until completely coated. Stand on buttered cookie sheet to set. Cool to room temperature before eating. Best if eaten within 24 hours.

Special note: Expect your syrup pan to be a sticky mess once you're finished. Just fill it with very hot water and let it set to soften the syrup residue. If this is your first try at candied apples, you might want to set the syrup pan over another pan of gently boiling water, double boiler style, while you dip the apples. You've got to work fast enough to get all the dipping done before the syrup starts to crystallize, and the hot steam/double boiler trick may buy you a few extra minutes of work time.

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