Caro: Epic Apples

I made a big old mess this weekend.

Actually, I made a whole bunch of big old messes.

I made a mess of…
– dishes in (fine… and around) the sink.
– rejected Saturday outfits on the floor.
– new purchases in the trunk of my car. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s too tired after a day of shopping to lug her treasured finds upstairs when that can so conveniently be left for the next day.)

Et cetera, et cetera. (For some reason, when I just wrote et cetera, I said it in my head in a British accent.) (I feel like noting that as I write things—from essays to text messages to blog posts—I totally say them in my head. Out loud sometimes, if no one’s around. Like a narrator? Kind of?) (I’m crazy. I’m aware of this. Moving right along…)

So, I know I should be responsible, and I know dirty dishes and invisible-due-to-being-covered-with-clothes floors aren’t exactly acceptable in the real world, and blah blah blah. BUT. One of my weekend messes was absolutely, definitely, entirely excusable.

Because it involved apples, chocolate, caramel, sprinkles, nonpareils, and M&M’s. So my kitchen is covered with the last three, and there’s chocolate on the walls, and all but one of my utensils are coated in caramel. Best mess ever?! Uhh, yeah. So, whatever, don’t hate.

Besides, I deem the current apocalyptic state of my kitchen to be so worth what I got out of it. Granny Smith apples, submerged in rich caramel, double-dipped in milk chocolate, covered in varied colorful and texture-enhancing toppings.

epic apples

I had a specific goal in mind while I was making these. I was trying to recreate the first dipped apple I ever truly loved.

I’ve never liked candy apples. (You’d think my crazy-intense love of cinnamon would extend to cinnamon-flavored candy, but it does not. I firmly reject cinnamon-flavored candy.) I’ve also never liked caramel apples, because I’m really not a big fan of caramel without chocolate. So the dipped apple creations that are so definitive of fall flew under my radar for most of my life. Until…

My freshman year of college. I went apple-picking (now seriously my favorite activity) at Eckert’s Orchards in Belleville, Illinois, and with 10 pounds of fresh-from-the-tree apples in tow, I set off to peruse the on-site country store for goodies like fudge and apple-themed home decor. But what really caught my eye was the most beautiful dipped apple my eyes had ever beheld. It was seriously half the size of my head. It boasted a layer of caramel, a layer of chocolate, and a generous coating of crushed mini M&M’s. All this over a freshly picked apple. (PEOPLE, you have NOT had an apple unless you have had an apple straight off a tree. Actually life-changing. Really, really. I can’t even properly express how much more amazing they are than supermarket apples. At least 816 times more amazing.)

I brought that apple home with me and ate it for dinner alone that very night. And it was every bit as amazing as I had been daydreaming it would be during my entire ride home. I was lucky enough to be able to return to Eckert’s each next year until I graduated, buying (at least) a couple of these apples each time. So I decided… since this is my first year away from my beloved St. Louis with no Eckert’s access, what better recipe for apple week than a recreation of that magical jazzed-up apple of my dreams?

epic apples

These babies aren’t quite the same as the Eckert’s ones, of course, mostly due to the fact that my apples came from Walmart (no apple orchards in Tampa 😦 ), and also due to the fact that my disastrously sloppy apples look almost nothing like the crisp, clean, perfectly dipped ones on display at the country store. Still, though. One bite transported me right back to the fall days of my college experience. Even with supbar apples, these are still special. And who cares what they look like if you’re just going to eat them anyway?! (Really, though, you won’t even think about gifting these. I promise, once you try a piece of one, there will be no way you will let the rest of the batch leave your house.)

These are seriously indulgent, unbelievably delicious, and the very best approximation to my apple muse that I could come up with. It makes me giddy to think that I can now have a little slice of my STL life whenever I want, from a distance, and relive some delectable memories. Happy happy 🙂 .

epic apples

Well, what are you waiting for?! I believe you have some apple bliss to create!

__________________________________________________

Epic Apples (a.k.a. Caramel-Covered, Chocolate-Dipped, Topping-Doused Apples)

While almost anyone with a functioning mind will advise you NOT to use melted chocolate chips to coat things, I used them. Generally, people prefer the glossy, snappy nature of tempered high-quality chocolate or even of candy melts. But… you know when you take a bite of, say, a chocolate-coated ice cream bar and it’s never a clean break? Like you end up taking half the chocolate coating off one side or demolishing it into pieces? I hate that. I wanted a softer, not-snappy chocolate covering, which is what the dipped Eckert’s apples had. Chocolate chips were perfect for this. I just keep the done-up apples in the refrigerator so that the chocolate does not melt. It’s hard straight out of the cold, but it’s just not snappy. You know? It really won’t stay hardened for any considerable period of time out of the fridge, but I love that I can cut off a slice of my dipped apple without causing the rest of the chocolate coating to shatter.

I used Granny Smith apples and then used milk chocolate to counter their tartness. If you use a sweeter apple, milk chocolate might be overwhelming… consider semisweet?

Also, I used a lottt of caramel and chocolate because I wanted my apples to be really indulgent, over-the-top treats. To give you an idea… when I cut a slice off the first apple, the chocolate and caramel layers in the cross-section view were, together, about 1/4 of an inch thick. For a thinner coating, dial back the chocolate and caramel amounts. Or just make more apples!

And, of course, use any toppings you can dream of.

Recipe
Inspired by the arrival of fall and memories of those crazy Eckert’s apples
Yield: 3 dipped apples

Ingredients
3 apples (variety of your choice)
10-ish ounces caramel candies (I used Caramel Bits; they melt like a dream and come in 11-ounce bags.)
10-ish ounces chocolate chips (Milk? Dark? Semisweet? Your call!)
Enough toppings of your choice to fully coat the apples

1. Wash the apples really well. Maybe you even want to peel them? I thought about it, because I don’t like apple peels, but decided against it because I was too lazy. Oh, well. Something to try.
2. Select two microwave-safe bowls of an appropriate size and shape for apple dipping. I used an unusually wide mug that accommodated the apples quite nicely and let me dunk them entirely in the caramel and chocolate.
3. Prepare a pan lined with parchment or wax paper.
4. Pour the caramel candies into one of the bowls/containers you selected, and microwave them on high for one minute.
5. Remove the caramel-filled bowl from the microwave and stir vigorously. If the caramel is not entirely melted and smooth, return it to the microwave for 30 seconds. Again, remove and stir vigorously. The caramel should be silky by now. You might want to dive into it. Don’t.
6. Take an apple by the stem (or puncture it with a fork or stick), and lower it into the caramel, coating the whole apple. Remove the apple carefully, and place it on the parchment-covered pan. Repeat with the other apples.
7. Place the caramel-ed apples in the freezer for about an hour.
8. Once the caramel is nicely set, remove the apples from the freezer and set them aside.
9. Set out your toppings in bowls, or at least be ready to messily shake them onto the apples once they are covered in chocolate.
10. Pour the chocolate chips into the other bowl/container, and microwave them on high for 30 seconds. Remove, stir, microwave for 30 more seconds. Repeat as necessary until the chips are melted. Do not microwave them for more than 30 seconds at a time! Burnt chocolate is the saddest!
11. Take a caramel-coated apple, again by the stem or punctured with a fork/stick, and submerge it in the melted chocolate. You might want to dip each apple a second time. I definitely did.
12. As you remove each apple from the chocolate, let the excess drip off, and then carefully (softly) roll the apple in the toppings you set out, or sprinkle the toppings over the apple.
13. Set the coated, topped apples back on the parchment-paper-covered pan, and return them to the freezer for another hour.
14. That’s it! They’re ready! YAY! Eat one, and either leave the rest in the freezer or consider moving them to the fridge if you want the coatings to soften up just a teensy bit.
15. Smile! It’s FALL!

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