No question, they are beautiful and I'm certain they are delicious. But how many people really are going to sit down and eat such mammoth sugar bombs, never mind feed one to their kid?
Which got me thinking about ways to capture that delicious blend of apples and caramel in a smaller, less guilt-inducing package. I've tried this before, actually. I once used a melon baller to scoop out perfect balls of apple, then stuck them on sticks and tried to coat them with caramel. It was a fine idea that didn't work. The caramel wouldn't adhere to the flesh of the apple (only the peel).
The problem was the moisture. The solution was simple — get rid of the moisture. This also resolved my size issue.
Instead of coating whole fresh apples, I decided to thinly slice them and turn them into chips. It's a painless process, especially if you have a mandoline. The slices get baked low and slow until dried and slightly crisp. Once they cool, they are easy to dunk or coat with all manner of sugary treats.
I opted for a trio of coatings — caramel, white chocolate and dark chocolate. But you could use whatever candy coatings you like. Candy melts (sold at craft and baking supply shops) are an easy choice. They also come in a wide variety of colours, so you can create seasonal treats. And while the coatings are still tacky, you also can decorate with candy sprinkles.
CARAMEL-CHOCOLATE APPLE CHIPS
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours (45 minutes active)
1 large apple
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Half of a 14-ounce package caramel candies, unwrapped
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup white chocolate bits
1 teaspoon shortening
1/2 cup dark chocolate candy melts
Heat the oven to 250 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a mandoline, food processor or very sharp knife, cut the apple into very thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. There are several ways to do this. If you have an apple corer, you can simply cut out the core, then lay the apple on its side and slice starting at one side and working your way to the other. If you don't have a corer, stand the apple upright, then begin on one side and cut slices until you reach the core. Rotate the apple and repeat until all 4 sides have been sliced.
Arrange the apple slices on the prepared baking sheet, being careful not to overlap. Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon, then bake for 45 minutes, or until dried and slightly crisp. Slide the parchment and apples off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
Once the apples have cooled, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the caramels and water. Heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Dunk a fork into the caramel, then use it to drizzle the caramel over the apple chips. Set aside to let the caramel set.
When the caramel has set, place the white chocolate bits and shortening in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 15-second bursts, stirring between, until melted and smooth. Using a clean fork, repeat the drizzling similar to the caramel. Set aside to let the white chocolate set.
Once the white chocolate has set, melt the dark chocolate candy melts in a clean bowl using the same method as the white chocolate. Once melted, dunk a clean fork in the melted chocolate and drizzle over the apple chips. Let cool until the chocolate is set. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories; 90 calories from fat (38 per cent of total calories); 10 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 39 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 33 g sugar; 3 g protein; 70 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.