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Halloween Apples

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups heavy cream
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla extract
6 to 8 small to medium-size cold apples
1 lb. chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 to 6 oz. chopped, toasted nuts (optional)

1. Combine sugar, corn syrup, honey and salt in a heavy-bottom 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the inside of the pot with a wet pastry brush or a wad of paper towel dipped in water. Cover and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Rinse the spoon before using it again later. Uncover the pot and rinse the sides once more.

2. Insert a candy thermometer without letting it touch the bottom of the pot. Cook, uncovered, without stirring until the mixture reaches 305 degrees (F), 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer and keep it hot until needed.

4. When the sugar mixture reaches 305 degrees, turn the heat off. Stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the heat back on under the pot and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until temperature reaches 250 degrees (F), about 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the caramel to a smaller pot or heatproof bowl deep enough to dip the apples. Cool for 10 minutes.

5. Impale each apple on a stick. Holding the stick, dip an apple into the caramel, allowing the excess to flow back into the pot. Set the apple on a sheet of waxed paper. Repeat to coat each apple.

(Note: If the caramel gets too cool, it will slide entirely off the apple! If necessary, reheat gently --without simmering -- then continue to dip.)

6. Let the dipped apples set until the caramel is cool and firm, at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate them).

7. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring frequently, until almost entirely melted. Remove from heat and stir until completely melted and warm (not hot). Dip each apple into the chocolate, allowing the excess chocolate to flow back into the bowl. If desired, sprinkle with nuts. Set the dipped apples on a tray lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate to set the chocolate, keep the apples fresh and crisp, and keep the chocolate from discoloring.

Makes 6 to 8 apples.


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