One of my favorite foods has always been a perfect caramel apple. The crunch of a tart apple underneath velvety caramel, studded with crushed peanuts – it’s a flavor combination for the ages. Another thing I love is little food. Any entrée-sized portion that can be served in a single mouthful is always preferable to me for some strange reason – perhaps from my days playing with my girls’ dollhouses and having American Girl Doll-sized tea parties, when anything in miniature was cute. More likely, it’s the idea that if you can eat things in diminutive sizes, you can try a wider variety of foods.
I first had these tiny caramel apples at the White House, where chef Bill Yosses made them as one of the buffet desserts at a reception on a fall afternoon. It’s shameful to admit, but when one becomes accustomed to beautiful food every day, as I was when working at the White House, it’s easy to walk past a plate of exquisite pastries and never blink an eye, much less eat one. But when I saw Bill’s tiny caramel apples that day, standing like earnest little soldiers on their silver platter, it stopped me cold. They were so clever! People were falling over themselves to get one.
These little caramel apples can be made with cape gooseberries, with toothpicks as sticks, or they can be made with ladyapples. The ladyapple caramel apples look beautiful but are hard to eat because so much of them is apple core. It’s a job to get a bite of apple from one. Instead, the apples I use for this recipe, per Bill’s instructions, are a canned version with the stem and skin still on them. I never knew there was such a thing as a whole canned mini-apple, but Bill found them and they were delicious – and you can pop the whole thing in your mouth and eat it. There’s no core to contend with.
This is a sweet way to give kids the caramel apple experience in a manageable quantity. (No sugar rushes from just one bite!) It’s also a great after-dinner nibble to pass around the table with the chocolates and nuts. I’ve made these, along with candied ginger and dark chocolate-dipped orange peel, as post-prandial morsels, and the apples were the first things to be eaten.
You can make your own caramel and do this the long way, but I didn’t. I just melted some caramels and dipped the little apples into the caramel mixture. It took less than fifteen minutes to make a dozen. You can roll the apples in crushed peanuts, coconut, or shaved chocolate.
Serves: two 15-ounce cans of apples make about 20 mini-caramel apples
Prep time: 15 minutes per can of apples
- 2 cans of mini apples with stems and skin (I found them online at Amazon.com)
- 1 11-ounce bag of vanilla caramels
- 1-2 tablespoons water
- Remove apples from can, drain off liquid and allow apples to dry.
- Remove wrappers from caramels. In a medium saucepan, add water and caramels, and melt over low heat until caramel is fully melted.
- Dip apples into caramel, coating them completely.
- Roll the coated apples in crushed peanuts or other sweet treats.
- Allow the caramel covered apples to cool and harden. (If the caramel in the pan cools and becomes too hard to dip the apples into, place the pan back on stove and gently reheat, to continue dipping apples.)