Before I sign off for a few days of feasting, I wanted to leave you with a sweet thought.
Honey. Chinese five spice. Mini apples.
They are a perfect final bite for any holiday meal. Or if you wrap them up real nice in some parchment paper, you can give them away as party favors for everyone to take home.
The recipe does require some caution (hot caramel) and a candy thermometer. But other than those two warnings, it is extremely simple. And the results are extremely worth it.
The original hails from natural cooking guru, Heidi Swanson, and her recipe does contains salt. But I simply subbed out the sodium and added in one of my favorite spices–actually five of them–to add some zing to the caramel.
Chinese five spice typically contains fennel, Szechuan pepper, anise, ginger, and cloves. It works wonderfully for sweet and savory dishes. And when I use it in desserts, I like to add a touch of cinnamon to highlight the sweetness.
So if you have an extra thirty minutes today or tomorrow while your turkey or game hen or piece of halibut roasts, then try making these candied treats for your friends and family.
Have a happy and healthy holidays. And as always chow on. And chew on these apples.
HEIDI SWANSON’S CARAMEL APPPLES (with a Salt-Free twist)
- 6 to 8 small apples, washed and unwaxed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 cup honey
- Special equipment: candy thermometer and lollipop sticks or toothpicks
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Push a lollipop or toothpick deep into each apple – in through the stem. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water and set aside.
In a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan heat the cream and spices until tiny bubbles start forming where the milk touches the pan – just before a simmer.
Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Now reduce the heat to an active simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes minutes or until the mixture reaches about 255-260F degrees.
To stop the caramel from cooking, very, very carefully set the bottom of the saucepan in the bowl of cold water you prepared earlier taking special care not to get any of the water in the caramel mixture. Stir until caramel begins to thicken up–you want the caramel to be thin enough that it will easily coat your apples, but not so thin that it will run right off. If the caramel thickens too much simply put the pot back over the burner for 10 seconds or so to heat it up a bit.
Tilt the sauce pan so all the caramel forms a pool on one side, and uses the other hand to dunk and twirl each apple until it is thoroughly coated with caramel. Place each apple on the parchment lined baking sheets and allow the caramel to cool and set.
Sticky sweet and ready to eat.