Monday, October 1, 2012

Caramel Apples and Pretzels Supreme

My boss calls me Betty Crocker. It’s true. And I’m not even that great of a baker, but I am obsessed with birthdays. And every birthday deserves a celebration. So I am totally that girl in the office who keeps a birthday calendar and makes a special treat for every single colleague on his/her special day. I feel like our birthdays are all bunched up together, so we have had lots of treats lately! Inspired by the crisper air, cute boots, and a tree by my condo that is just beginning to turn into a bold shade of red, I decided it was time for caramel apples. Now, I have never made caramel apples before, and if you remember, I also don’t eat sweets. This can prove challenging because I love to make sweet treats! So how do I do it? I actually cook based off of the smell of foods and hope it works out! Weird, I know. Fortunately, you can’t really go wrong with ingredients like caramel, oreos, peanuts, and sprinkles. I found a tutorial on pinterest for caramel apple slices which are easier to eat, but I decided that it was going to be too confusing because I didn’t know if the apples would brown. So I just did whole apples and we sliced them at work with the apple slicer so that everyone could try all of the different kinds. I just don’t have it in me to follow a recipe. I always just look at a bunch of ideas and then make it up. Kind of like the skirt that I made recently. It’s always good to have a back up plan or two. Or five.

Caramel Apples Supreme

12 green granny smith apples
Popsicle sticks
2 bags of kraft caramel pieces (Mine were the wrapped candy squares, but the small round pieces in the baking section melt easier)
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 bag of mini oreos
1/2 bag of mini M&Ms
1/2 container of sprinkles
1/2 bag of Ghirardhelli dark chocolate chips
1/2 bag of Ghirardhelli white chocolate chips
1 cup peanuts (chopped finely)
Baking soda (optional)

I decked out my apples with random ingredients that are totally optional and can be substituted for whatever you have on hand. I also didn’t measure anything. These are just guesses. This is what I like to call Caramel Apples with No Rules. Use what you want – I’ll just show you how and give you some ideas!

To start, you need to prep the apples. If your apples are waxed (which mine were) you will need to scrub them with a textured towel under hot water. I washed mine with baking soda to help remove the wax. They will still be a little shiny, but if they have a lot of wax the caramel will slip right off! Be sure to remove the stems.

To insert the stick, take a sharp, skinny knife and make a slit about ½ way into the top of the apple to make it easier to insert. The stick should be far enough in to support the weight of the apple when you dip and twirl it around!

Go ahead and line a cookie sheet or two with waxed paper.  And make room on a shelf in your fridge! You will need to do this quickly later, so go ahead and get it out of the way now.

Get all of your toppings ready (except for the chocolate). I had separate bowls for each – crushed oreos, chopped peanuts, mini M&Ms (regular sized are too heavy), and sprinkles.

Follow the instructions on the Kraft package to melt both bags of caramel. You can make your own, but I’m not that ambitious. Just add a tablespoon or so of vanilla to add a little homemade touch. (I used ½ tbsp. per bag of caramel.) Good enough!

Using one apple at a time, completely submerse it in the bowl of melted caramel.  You will probably need to use a spoon for this as well to make sure the caramel gets on the top. Twirl it around a few times and hold it upside down for a little while. Then place it on the waxed paper to cool. Remember that gravity always wins, so the caramel will naturally want to pool at the bottom of the apple while it is cooling. Because the caramel is so sticky, the only way to keep it from doing this is to keep picking them up and turning them upside down while they cool.  However, I didn’t just make caramel apples, I made caramel apples supreme. I think that the toppings help the caramel to harden and look prettier. So, right after you dip your apple, roll it around in a bowl of toppings. I rolled most of them in only one topping, but I did a few half-and-half (half oreos and half peanuts, etc).The apples are much less sticky now that they are covered in toppings, so now it is easier to keep pushing the caramel and toppings back up onto the apples. If you can, stick them in the fridge as you finish each one and just keep reaching in and pushing the toppings up. Because you will have mashed a lot of the toppings at this point from handling the apples so often, they make not look quite as pretty as when they started. To dress them back up, I waited until the apples were almost entirely finished cooling and then gave them one last roll in the toppings to give them a fresh look again.

A couple of hours later when the apples had been chilling in the fridge, I melted about half of a bag of both dark and white chocolate. I wasn’t too concerned with it looking perfect, so I just drizzled it on with a spoon. The chocolate hardens almost instantly and really dresses them up!

By the way, at this point a lot of my sticks were either smudged with caramel or smeared with chocolate, so I pulled them out and put a new one in. Just stick it in a little bit farther than the last one so that it will stay.

Keep your apples in the fridge or the caramel will start to melt and everything will start to slide down again! When you are ready to serve, stick each apple on a muffin cup to keep them from sticking to your serving tray. Like I mentioned in the beginning, you can actually slice the apples with an apple slicer. Just put the center of the slicer over the stick. The apples will brown though, so be ready to eat them or spray them with lemon juice (which may affect the flavor of the apples – I didn’t try it).

And voila. You have a tray full of Fall Flavor Goodness!

Pretzels Supreme

Because I had some leftover caramel that was already melted, I grabbed a bag of pretzel rods and made Pretzels Supreme as well. I dipped each pretzel in caramel and then topped them with peanuts or oreos and dipped a few in the dark chocolate that I had leftover. I let them cool on waxed paper in the fridge along with the apples. 

I also went ahead and melted the other half of the white chocolate in a bowl and used up the rest of my pretzels. It was inspired by my White Christmas Mix - just with none of the other White Christmas goodness. I can't spoil my coworkers that much.

I must say that the pretzels, although much easier to make, were loved just as much as the apples. People fall for the whole sweet/salty thing. 

And people will fall for you if you show up at the office on a Friday with Caramel Apples Supreme and Pretzels Supreme!

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