Fall is in the air and the harvest is in. Our celebrated Farmers Market has sadly closed, but not before I got there, and now I'm looking at, and trying to decide what to do with, a very full bushel of assorted apples. Let's see, pies and tarts for the Northern Spies, to be sure, and those Rome Beauties are always great for baking. The remainder of the bushel is all Honey Crisps, my favorite apple of all, I admit, and for those I have a somewhat different treatment.
A favorite way to eat apples is "out of hand," of course, but it is the fall season and I can't help but notice the ubiquitous "Affy Tapple," the popular caramel apple on a stick that seems to be in just about every grocery store. Did you know that Affy Tapples were created in Chicago as far back as 1948? The company relocated to Niles in 2007 and continues to be a favorite fall treat.
Now Affy Tapples are great for the kids, but I prefer a more grown-up approach, if you will; one that's a bit friendlier to your teeth and certainly friendlier to someone with a moustache like mine. I make my own caramel sauce, and instead of skewering the apple on a stick and dipping it in caramel, it's far more enjoyable to simply cut the apple into wedges and dip them one by one as you go.
Caramel is nothing more than the mixture that's produced when sugar has been cooked until it melts and becomes a thick, golden-to-deep-brown liquid. Water is often used to thin the syrup, which has myriad uses both in the sweet and savory kitchen. There are two ways to make caramel, either by the dry method, where the sugar is placed in a saucepan and is cooked to the desired color, or by the wet method where the sugar is dissolved in water before it's cooked. There is less danger of burning the caramel with the wet method, but as a caution, once water has been added to the sugar, you must refrain from stirring it to prevent crystallization.