I re-visited an old project to see if I can improve the candy apple method for sliced apples. Knowing a little bit about sugar, as well as picking the right apple variety will determine your success rate.
The key to having the perfect candy coating is the boiling temperature—sugar is finicky, and has different properties at different temperatures. Cooking the sugar to a high temperature makes it hard and more brittle, while cooking it to a lower temperature makes it soft, and less stable. The ideal temperature range for candy apples is 300’F (~149’C/hardcrack stage)—any lower than this, and you’ll have a soft sugar that will droop right off your apple slices; on the other hand, if your temperature exceeds this by more than 9-12 degrees, you’ll have sugar that is too hard to evenly coat your apples, and be too hard to bite into.
Apples are equally important: different apple varieties have different qualities, and picking the right one is critical. For this project, I opted for Ontario-grown Cortland Apples. Cortland’s resist browning extremely well when cut into slices, and they have a sweet taste and crisp texture. The crisp texture was perfect for threading the wooden sticks into the apple slices, which didn’t show any signs of oxidation. You can skip cutting the apples into shapes, but that’s most of the fun and contributes to that wow factor– you can always make apple butter from the scraps, or better yet, eat ‘em.
Apple Candy Hearts
[1 apple makes ~5, 2” apple hearts/prep:10 min; total: 45 min]
For ~15 apple candy grams:
- 3 Cortland apples
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup (prevents crystallization)
- 1/2 tsp red food coloring (optional)
- 1/2 cup corn flakes
- 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
+ 15 wood skewers
+ silicon mat or parchment paper
+ parchment piping cone (for drizzling chocolate)
+ cookie cutter
+ candy thermometer
1. Line a baking sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and food coloring. Gently stir until all ingredients are combined, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. After the initial stir, you’ll want to avoid mixing the sugar.
2. Insert candy thermometer and continue to boil until temperature reaches between 300’F and 310’F (hard crack stage)—this step takes ~ 15-20 minutes.
3. While the sugar is cooking, prep your apples by cleaning and drying them. Slice them into 5/8” rounds, and cut out shapes using a cookie cutter.
4. Pat the shapes dry using a paper towel, and gently insert wooden skewers into the bottom of each shape.
5. Gently crush the cornflakes, and place them in a shallow dish. Have it ready near by, to transfer the sugar coated candy apple slices into the cereal before they cool.
6. When the sugar syrup reaches 300’F, remove it from heat, and place on a heat resistant surface. Working quickly, dip the apple shapes into the sugar until it is completely coated. You might find it easier to use a spoon to coat the shapes—use whatever method you find easier.
7. Transfer the coated apples to the cornflake bowl, and roll the apples into the cereal until they adhere to the sides. Transfer to prepared baking sheet; allow to cool. Repeat the process until you have coated all of your apple slices.
8. Over a double boiler, melt your chocolate. Using a parchment piping cone, drizzle chocolate (liberally) over the cornflake-coated apple slices. Return to the baking sheet to cool. Individually package the apple slices, or transfer into an airtight container. Consume within 2 days.
- If the sugar droops right off or doesn’t stick to your apples, your sugar wasn’t at the right stage. Most likely, the sugar didn’t reach 300’F, and was still in the soft crack stage. Else, the apple slices were not dried off sufficiently.
- If the sugar is too hard to dip your apple slices into, it either exceeded 310’F, or it cooled down too much. If it exceeds 310’F, unfortunately, you’ll have to re-start. If it has cooled down too much, return to the heating element to warm it up.
- If your cornflakes won’t stick to the apple slices, the sugar cooled down too fast. You can skip this step, and drizzle with chocolate, or re-coat the apple slice, and try again.
- If your chocolate won’t harden, it hasn’t tempered properly.
Guess what? This recipe won me the title of Ontario Apple Growers Challenge Champion! The challenge was inspired by the 200th anniversary of the McIntosh apple and the grandiose Winter Apple Ball . Woohoo