Ah, caramel apples - they are arguably the quintessential food of the autumn season. There are few things harder to resist than a fresh, crunchy apple coated in delectable caramel and possibly swirled in some nuts or confections, if you're lucky. Basically, it's all but impossible to attend your local town fair and not indulge in one of these treats.
You can either choose to make them on your own or, if you happen to be stretched for time, order them from reputable sources who will happily coat them in a variety of sweet toppings. Here's a quick rundown on one of our most beloved snacks.
The Food Timeline notes that coating fruit in candy is actually a fairly old practice. Despite this, food historians agree that the candied apple probably didn't show up in a form similar to what we know today until around the late 19th century, when toffee and caramel became inexpensive and widely available.
Interestingly, these treats may be most associated with the autumn season because the humidity of the summer makes it much more difficult for the sugar to harden, which prevents a shell from forming. Additionally, apples aren't in season in the winter, so that's out, too. Generally, they are made from tart apples like Granny Smith or Fuji. Softer apples can work, but they often don't capture that same flavor.
Caramel apples have become an international institution, with slight variations depending on the country. In China, a similar snack known as Tanghulu is served - it consists of small fruits (usually hawthorns) coated in a hard sugar syrup. Caramel apples used to be much more popular in the United States around Halloween, but trick-or-treaters generally receive wrapped pieces of candy these days.
Today, you can enjoy a caramel apple with a number of delicious, crunchy coatings. Swirl it in crushed up candy bars, peanuts or even cookies. Generally, if you can break it up, you can cover a caramel apple with it.
The caramel apple has given way to a number of similar snacks. It could be argued that brownie pops are derived from the formula, simply replacing the apple with a brownie and giving it a harder shell. It can't be denied: we love to put things on sticks and then dip them in things. Whatever the case, caramel apples are here to stay, and thank goodness for that!