For some, a slightly sneaky way to get a portion of fruit into their unwitting little treasures. For others, they can be the fatal last bite for any slightly wobbly fillings. And for most, toffee apples are synonymous with Halloween and Bonfire Night festivities. A partnering that really only began because there would be an abundance of apples around after the autumn’s harvesting and so they’d be turned into treats for the harvest festivals which preceded Halloween and Bonfire Night. The tradition just carried over.
Any eating apple will do although it seems to make some sense to choose ones with a bit of flavour and which have some connection to the British harvests of their origins. Maybe a nice russet or a Cox’s Orange Pippin. Speaking purely personally, if I made it through the crispy coating only to be greeted by a golden delicious or a Pink Lady I’d lick off all the toffee and chuck the apple in the bin.
It also makes sense not to choose those big apples or else the ratio of toffee to fruit is going to be all askew. And then once the toffee is off, you are basically just left with a big apple on a stick.
And the final critical apple factor is that it must not be waxed. Or if it is – or if you’re not sure whether it is or not – you need to begin by getting all the wax off. If it stays on the apple then your lovely toffee coating will simply slide rather disappointedly off the apple.
5 smallish apples
225g demerara sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp golden syrup
30g butter (optional – it’ll make the coating not quite so brittle)
Prepare the apples:
1. To get the wax off, just put the apples into a bowl which is large enough so that they’re not crammed in, and cover them with boiling water. Then dry the apples.
2. Now twist off any little stalks at the top of the apple. And then push or wheedle into the ‘stalk’ end (ie. not the bottom of the apple where you can see the core) whatever kind of stick you want to use. Make sure it goes deep into the apple. Lollipop sticks are often used but I think liquorice root (like these ones in the pic) give a lovely rustic look and you can buy them easily enough at health food shops. Or you could use sturdy twigs which have been washed and dried – rather more authentically harking back to the old harvest festivals.
3. Put the apples onto a piece of baking parchment or a tray or plate that has been lightly oiled. You’re now going to make the toffee so it is going to be useful to have the apples close to hand.
Make the toffee:
(Before you start on this take a look at my article on making treacle toffee, as you will need the same knowledge and technique here for judging when your toffee has reached ‘hard crack’ temperature.)
4. Put the sugar and water into a pan over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Now stir in the vinegar and golden syrup, and the butter if you are using it.
5. Turn the heat up and let it boil madly stirring now and then so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan and burn. After about five minutes of furious burbling you can start to test for hard-crack. Once you are there, take the pan off the heat.
Bringing together apples and toffee:
You need to do this all quite quickly and asap after the toffee has got to the right temperature – the apples need to be coated before the toffee starts to set.
6. One by one, holding it by its stick, twist each apple through the pan of toffee to thoroughly coat it. The technique is like you see with candyfloss sellers at fairs. Once the apple has a nice coating, hold it up over the pan briefly to let any drips off and then put the apple back on the baking parchment / tray / plate. It goes apple downwards, stick facing up to the ceiling. That way you will achieve the flat toffee top that it is meant to have.
7. Leave the toffee apples to set and cool. Be wary of making them more than a few hours – or a day tops – ahead of time as the toffee will go a bit sticky.
PS – These toffee apples are toffee coloured. If you want the bright red look, just add in a few drops of red food colouring when you put the vinegar etc into the pan.