Take a bite out of a caramel treat

Go Entertain


Bring back memories or make new ones with an old-fashioned Halloween treat - caramel apples.

While health and safety concerns have put an end to handing out apples to the trick-or-treaters who come calling, you can still serve them to friends and family. Or even better, get a group together for a caramel apple-making party.

What could be more decadent than taking a perfectly nutritious apple and slathering it with a sticky, sugary coating and maybe nuts and sprinkles to boot?

Start with choosing your apple. The Golden and Red Delicious tend to be larger, but they are softer and may be too sweet. Some retail caramel apple makers swear by the tart Granny Smith. Or compromise and use the crunchy McIntosh, Braeburn, Fuji or Gala.

Big apples look more impressive, but smaller ones yield a higher ratio of caramel to apple, which is important for maximum decadence.

Before the party, wash the apples and dry them with a paper towel. Gather craft sticks and spread out wax paper. On small plates, pour assorted toppings, such as chopped nuts, sprinkles and Red Hots.

Although there are caramel apple-making kits in the stores, for a real old-fashioned experience, make the caramel yourself. You just need sugar, water, cream and a pot. If you'd like, add maple syrup or vanilla extract to the caramel for additional flavor.

When the caramel is ready, hand everyone an apple on a stick and let each guest take turns dipping the apple in the caramel and rolling it in the toppings. If you'd like, have some melted chocolate on hand to drizzle over the apples as the final flourish.

Then, depending on the age of the group, play games, sip cider or nosh on appetizers until the caramel is set.

Knight Ridder/Tribune contributed to this article.


Caramel Apples

Makes 6

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

6 apples, stems removed

3 ounces white chocolate (optional)

3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (optional)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped natural pistachios, Red Hots or other small candies (optional)

gold leaf (optional)

In heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and sugar. Over low heat, stir mixture gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium low and cook, without stirring, until mixture is a dark amber color. Remove from heat and carefully stir in heavy cream (mixture will bubble up and spatter a bit, then subside.)

Set aside to cool and thicken.

Insert craft sticks into bottom center of apples. Dip apples into thickened caramel to coat completely. Or, hold the apples over pot and spoon hot caramel over them until thoroughly coated.

Place the apples on wax paper. Refrigerate to harden.

If you'd like to drizzle with chocolate, melt white chocolate in top of double boiler above gently simmering water; stir until smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to pastry bag fitted with small writing tip. Drizzle thin, random strips of white chocolate over each caramel apple.

Repeat melting and drizzling with semisweet chocolate.

Decorate each apple with pistachios, Red Hot candies, and a few small pieces of gold leaf, if desired.

Cool apples in refrigerator until completely set.

Shortcut: Melt store-bought caramels in a double boiler (or in the microwave) according to the package instructions. Remove from heat and let this mixture cool just a bit before dipping apples.


Variations on the theme

Once your apple is dipped, try one of these topping variations:

Crushed peanuts, pecans or almonds

Granola, for a hippie treat

Orange and black sprinkles, the colors of Halloween

White chocolate chips and macadamia nuts

Cinnamon red hots for a spicy treat

Drape a Gummi worm or two over the apple for an "Ewwww, gross!" treat.

For more recipes and ideas visit: bestapples.com, usapple.org and kraftfoods.com

Party tricks

Some tricks for frightening up your Halloween party, beyond the jack-o'-lantern and bowl of candy:

Put up a tree: A "pumpkin tree," a faux tree with 600 tiny pre-strung orange lights and pumpkin ornaments, is $99 at SolutionsCatalog.com.

Hang a garland: A 9-foot strip of black garland with prelit orange lights, great for draping around porch railings or columns outside, or a mantel or banister inside, is $30 at horchow.com.

Crow about it: Decorative crows that look like the real thing and can be attached most anywhere with wire feet (large $24, small $5) are at Pottery Barn (potterybarn.com).

Set the mood: An orange tablecloth in various sizes that can be used from Halloween through Thanksgiving starts at $38 at garnethill.com. And food or candy will look at home in a glazed earthenware pumpkin-shaped tureen, sold for $49 at smithandhawken.com.

Hartford Courant

Food Tip-- Pumpkin Thumping-- Choosing a pumpkin for cooking? Select one that feels solid and is heavy for its size.

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