I never got over the fact that I was the only kid who’s mother sent them to school with a mashed sardine sandwich for lunch instead of peanut butter and jelly. Thankfully I had my twin sister to share in what seemed like a lunchroom catastrophe. But I most certainly never complained that I was the only child to bring a platter of candied apples for my birthday instead of cupcakes. Every year my classmates looked forward to January 31st.
My mother’s food was always homemade, with a clear affection for health and good taste (with enough bites of sardine I did eventually come to love the canned, oily fish). But I swear that the reason she made candied apples – irresistibly good and healthy as they might be – is because they were the quickest, surefire way to make forty-eight elementary school kids in her twin daughters’ classes smile like bees drunk on honey.
The excitement started at the stovetop, where we waited impatiently for the sugar to reach the “hard-crack” stage when it was ready to make a perfect, crisp, clear wrapping around the apples. We lined apples on a parchment-lined baking sheet and poked thick craft sticks through their cores. When the sugar was ready, Mamma carefully supervised as we dipped in the apple, twirling it in the melted sugar and setting it back to rest on the baking sheet. They would harden as they cooled, and even if we’d missed the “hard-crack” stage by a smidgeon, it didn’t matter. They were perfect.
- 12 wooden skewers or craft sticks
- 12 hard, crisp apples
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- zest of 1 lemon
- sprinkles or confetti (optional)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium pot, combine the sugar and water.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, stir and reduce heat to medium-high.
- If you have a candy thermometer, boil until the temperature reaches between 300 and 310 (the hard-crack stage). If you do not have a thermometer, set the timer for 20 minutes. To test for the right temperature, let a drop fall onto a plate. If it stands up stiffly, the sugar mixture is ready.
- Meanwhile, line the apples on the baking sheet and insert a wooden skewer about half-way through the stem-side of the core.
- When the sugar reaches temperature or the timer goes off, immediately remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cinnamon quickly. If the sugar has time to sit, it will begin to harden on the surface.
- Dip the apples into the sugar, twirling them around until they are completely coated and then transfer them back to the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the lemon zest and confetti over the apples while they are still warm and sticky. Cool completely before serving.