Thursday, October 4, 2012

Toffee Apples - epic fail and now we're talking!!

This is how an old fashioned toffee apple should look :)
This is NOT how a toffee apple should look :(
Not only is the toffee sliding off but also the colour of the toffee means it got too well cooked and tasted burnt :(
So what happened? The fail apple was a lovely crunchy organic apple and I thought it would be perfect for a toffee apple - I did read up first about making toffee apples and most said either wipe very well or even boil in hot water for a minute or two to remove the food wax used on apples to keep them fresh - I thought maybe organic apples didn't have the wax but I was incorrect and indeed they do - there are 3 reasons your toffee won't stick to your apples 1. Food wax coating - 2. The apple is too cold - 3. The apple has ANY moisture on it - so avail yourself of a unwaxed apple that is warm and completely dry. Some recipes also said that the toffee should go all the way up to the stick and partially coat it and that helps the toffee stick to the apple but I wanted to see some of the apple and the recipe worked the second time without doing this - but of course you can do it either way.

The top successful apple is a Belle de Boskoop apple from a nearby orchard in Unity Maine which for sure didn't have any wax - it had that nice dry hand old fashioned apples have - it also is a GREAT apple for toffeeing because it is super crunchy, juicy and tangy in flavour - not too sweet but also not too sour.

The taste of a good toffee apple is a wonderful thing - the thin cracky, sweet crunch of the toffee and then the crispness and sharp juice of the apple is such a great combination and reminds me of all the fairs I went to as a child in England. Toffee apples have been a great favourite at Autumn Fairs since Medieval times when they were coated in honey and beeswax - hmmm - not sure about that.

So off we go - it's a simple recipe but it's not easy. It can also be dangerous - hot melted sugar can give you a VERY bad burn so be careful - I recommend children should watch whilst adults make the recipe and children should be adult supervised every second of this recipe - so BE CAREFUL!!!!!  You do need just one special ingredient and that's Tate and Lyle's Golden Syrup - a very delicious sugary treat that tastes not only sweet but buttery too - it is available at the Belfast Coop for local friends and lots of Supermarkets now carry it too - it is an essential ingredient of many British Puddings like Treacle Tart - yes I know it's called Treacle (molasses) Tart but it's made with Golden Syrup!! - I think maybe you could use corn syrup instead of the Golden Syrup but am not sure.

You may have to make this recipe a couple of times to get it right and read up on what other recipes say just to get a feel for the process. Always read the recipe through first to get a sense of what you will be doing and when.

This is enough for 4 medium sized apples that are warm, DRY and free of food wax - you can pre boil the apples for a couple of minutes if you think your apples are waxed, which they probably are, spear the apples with the lolly sticks or twigs, I used twigs from our apple tree, before you get started and make sure they are in there securely for when you twirl in the pan to coat. 

Have a tray covered in parchment/wax paper ready to put the apples on when they are coated. DO NOT taste or touch the toffee while it is hot!!!!! 

Weighing the ingredients is important to get the toffee right:

8ozs sugar 
2oz butter
4oz Golden Syrup
3 fluid ounces water
Big pinch of salt (if you like that salted caramel flavour so au courant)
Tiny pinch of cream of tartar - I used it in the first recipe that didn't work and not in the second that did so maybe this ingredient isn't that important! 

1. Put all ingredients in a small, deep pan preferably with a heavy bottom.
2. Bring quickly to a rapid bubbling boil and if you have a reliable candy thermometer head for soft crack stage which is about 280F (all the books and recipes I have looked at have different temps for the different stages and I plonked with a number in the mid range of them all) - my thermometer is rubbish - you can check the efficacy of yours by testing it in a pan of boiling water and it should read 212F or 100C at sea level -  so I went by the colour and look of the bubbles and also by dropping drops of the toffee into a cold glass of water - I found when the drops kept their shape and left a thread that was right for my mix but sweet/candy making is not so easy to do and sometimes it doesn't work according to the recipe (sorry!) - I am surprised mine worked yesterday as it was very humid here in Maine and that can very adversely affect the mixture so do try to chose a dry day if you can. Anyhow this is how the bubbles looked just before I took the mix off the heat - they got a somewhat milky look and were viscose and thick - more like lava than boiling water - just don't let it get above 280 or start getting too dark - which it can do VERY quickly.
 Now you have to work quickly - dip and twirl the apples to get a nice coat of toffee - let them drip a little and then deposit on said parchment paper to set - they will take quite a while to cool - maybe an hour or so. By the third apple the toffee may be starting to set so bob back on the stove again but make sure not to let the toffee catch and burn on the bottom of the pan. Any leftover toffee can be poured onto the parchment and left to cool then hit with a blunt instrument to crack into lovely buttery toffee pieces - yummmmm

Ta dah - my delicious toffee apple - wee heee....only one came out nice enough to photograph - so don't be dismayed if yours aren't 'perfect' - they're homemade and should look like it :))) Do you think I got a little carried away with the apple twig in this one?
 One with extra toffee on the side.

 I recently read a book about confectionery through the ages "Sugar Plums and Sherbert - the Prehistory of Sweets" by Laura Mason and learned how fickle and hard toffee making can be - a very exact science in an inexact world - it amazes me that people in the 15 century were making wildly elaborate confections in big cauldrons over wood fires - boy did they know what they were doing but then again they did naught else - no shopping online, answering e-mails , texting their thumbs off, watching telly - you know!!

So let me know how you go with your toffee apple making, please feel free to post pics on my Facebook page HERE and here are some delightful scenes from this Autumn in Maine - these pictures aren't so much about the glow of Fall, which hasn't happened too much yet, as about the beauty of the tapestry like textures and colours that abound at this time of year. In my mind they could all be beautiful textile designs.

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