Caramel apples, also known as sweet apples, are whole apples coated in a thin, crispy layer of sugar. Treats are commonly confused with caramel apples, which have an entirely different topping. Caramel apples are popular gifts in Western cultures, often given to children during Halloween celebrations. Variations on the basic recipe include additional coatings, such as candy sprinkles and coconut shavings, and pre-cooking the apples to provide a different texture.
The most traditional way to prepare caramelized apples is to melt sugar, syrup and water until a thick liquid is produced. An apple is skewered with a relatively long, heat-resistant stick and dipped in the still-warm caramel sauce. Once the apple is completely coated, it is removed from the mixture and allowed to cool. The coating should harden over time, creating the thin layer of sweetness that characterizes caramel apples.
Chefs often mix other flavors into the caramel sauce to add variety to their caramel apples. A common accent is fresh cinnamon, as the spice is known to complement the flavor of apples. Vanilla extract is another popular addition, lending its unique aroma and flavor to the candy shell. The apple can also be rolled in additional ingredients while the toffee topping is still hot; Rainbow-colored candy sprinkles are an addition, bringing a festive look to the treats.
Some chefs pre-cook apples to add even more variety to the traditional recipe. Apples can be softened in cooking or stewing, adding a contrast to the crispy outer skin. Another popular method of preparing caramelized apples is to slice the fruit into smaller pieces, making them easier to bite into and taste.
The crunchy candy rind is a quality that distinguishes caramel apples from caramel apples and other apple candy. While both treats involve dipping apples in sugary sauces, the caramel topping of apples is generally more chewy. Caramel apples also require the use of milk to produce the coating, making the caramel apple the preferred choice for individuals with lactose intolerance.
While caramel apples can be enjoyed at any time of year, they are most popular during the months when apple trees produce their biggest harvests; in many countries, these months run between the third and fourth quarters of the year. This makes treats a common sight at festivals and celebrations from September to November. Halloween is the occasion most associated with caramel apples, as some homeowners prefer to give the fruit over candy to those with a sweet tooth, but apples are also a delight during Guy Fawkes Night in regions that celebrate it.