Homemade caramel is a luscious culinary invention, well worth the effort. But if time is short, skip this step, substituting a bag of caramel candies; use package directions for melting the caramel. Then decorate the apples lavishly for an extra-special dessert or edible gift.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
10-inch square piece of styrofoam
6 popsicle sticks or small wooden dowels
6 Red Delicious or Golden Delicious apples
3 ounces white chocolate
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped natural pistachios
Red Hots or other small candies
Gold Leaf (optional)
1. In heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and sugar. Over low heat, stir mixture gently until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium low and cook, without stirring, until mixture is a dark amber color. Remove from heat and carefully stir in heavy cream (mixture will bubble up and spatter a bit, then subside.) Set aside to cool and thicken.
2. Cover styrofoam with waxed paper to catch caramel drippings (this will be a stand for caramel apples). Insert popsicle sticks into bottom center of apples. Dip top half of each apple into thickened caramel. Insert bottom of popsicle sticks into styrofoam, allowing apples to stand upright so caramel runs down sides of each apple. Refrigerate to harden.
3. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in top of double boiler above gently simmering water; stir until smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to pastry bag fitted with small (#1) writing tip. Drizzle thin, random strips of white chocolate over each caramel apple. Repeat melting and drizzling with semi-sweet chocolate. Decorate each apple with pistachios, Red Hot candies, and a few small pieces of gold leaf, if desired. Serve or refrigerate to serve later.