Honey caramel apples are a treat I make only occasionally. Despite the mountain of real food dessert recipes I post on Nourished Kitchen (sweet things are always so beloved), we rarely eat dessert – preferring instead to finish our meals with seasonal fruit and a bit of cheese. Just occasionally, though, I make something really special – something to delight my little boy.
Halloween will arrive tomorrow – and with it mountains of candy. Candy I’d just as soon we avoid in perpetuity: chocolates made with slave labor, soft chewy candies made with genetically modified ingredients, and other tooth-rotting, belly-hurting garbage. My son still trick-or-treats, first during the community’s Halloween parade down the main street in town and later knocking on doors. He trades his booty for new toys, and we get rid of the candy.
I still like for him to enjoy the holiday and the indulgence – and so I make these: spooky honey caramel apples spiked with a touch of blood red (naturally sourced, of course) food dye and plunged onto gnarly sticks from the aspens in our yard. It’s a compromise – a treat for him, piece of mind for me. A little bit of caramel once a year never did anyone harm. After all, the only ingredients really required are apples, honey, cream, butter, sea salt and pecans (if you like them).
Soaked or Sprouted Nuts for Honey Caramel Apples
I like to off-set all the sweetness in these honey caramel apples with a bit of crunch – crushed pecans are my favorite though you can use any nut that suits you: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts. Nuts, like grains and beans, benefit from an overnight soak which helps to release their naturally occurring assortment of antinutrients: namely enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid.
Soaking nuts overnight in warm, slightly salty water, helps to improve their digestibility, their flavor and your body’s ability to absorb the array of nutrients they contain. After soaking, simply pat them dry and dehydrate them in a good quality dehydrator (you can find them online) or in the oven set on its lowest setting. You can also buy sprouted and soaked nuts online (see sources) if you haven’t the desire to prepare your own.
Natural Food Dye for Honey Caramel Apples
For these honey caramel apples, I wanted something a little spooky – and my boy wanted to see them blood red for Halloween. I’m no fan of conventional food dye, but I do keep a few bottles of natural food coloring tucked away in my fridge for just these occasions. These plant-based natural food colorings offer mellower, earthier tones instead of the artificially bright colors and my caramel took on a deep red-brown which was red enough to satisfy my little boy’s Halloween bloodlust.
Where to Find Natural Food Dye
Natural food dye is sometimes available in well-stocked health food stores, but I typically buy mine online. Storing it in the fridge makes it last a long, long time – though it can coagulate with long storage and should be brought to room temperature before using it.
- 6 medium apples, (or substitute 8 small apples)
- 1 cup honey
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- natural red food dye, (optional)
- ½ cup crushed pecans, (preferably soaked and dried)
- 6 sticks or wooden dowels
- Whisk honey, cream, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble, then immediately reduce the heat to medium. Stir in food coloring, adjusting the volume to match the intensity of color you like.
- Continue to whisk the caramel frequently to prevent scorching and to prevent it from bubbling up and out of of your saucepan. Continue to cook until the caramel reaches a temperature of 260 F (about 25 minutes). The caramel should be a rich brown or red-brown if you also used food coloring; the bubbles should be small and should uniformly cover the surface of the pan and the caramel should be thickened.
- Prepare an ice bath. Then pour the hot caramel into a mixing bowl and place the bowl in the ice bath, taking care not to splash water into the hot caramel. Stir the caramel until it is uniformly cooled and it begins to thicken just a bit.
- Plunge a wooden stick or dowel into the core of your apples and roll them, one by one, in the caramel until uniformly coated. Roll them in chopped pecans and place them on a piece of parchment paper to cool completely before serving.