By Abra Pappa for Nutritious America
Fall is not fall without caramel apples. At least to me. Crisp tart apples and sticky sweet caramel. Yum!
As a child, October meant caramel apples. We would travel to the farmers market to pick out the perfect caramel apple for the ride home. This much-anticipated treat was homemade by the farmer’s wife, with a fresh apple picked from the tree and dipped in a simple caramel sauce, made from sugar, heavy cream and sometimes butter. Then, as Halloween neared, my mother would come home with a big bag of apples and get to work on her own caramel apples for the family.
What was once the simplest and purest treat has turned into the simplest, fastest pre-packaged (and full of scary stuff) treat. Walk down the apple aisle of any grocery store this month and you will find “caramel apple wrappers” and packaged “old fashioned caramel dip.” Although convenience has its place in today’s hustle and bustle world, I wonder if you have ever read the ingredients in that easy-to-grab dip?
No? Well, here ya go:
HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SKIM MILK, CORN SYRUP, PALM OIL, SUGAR, BUTTER (CREAM, SALT), MODIFIED CORN STARCH, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE), TBHQ (ADDED TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS), ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS.
A lot more in there than the simple sugar and cream of my childhood caramel apples, a lot of long scary words, and the much dreaded high fructose corn syrup.
So let’s pimp that recipe, upgrading the ingredients and simplifying the method. You are never more than 10 minutes away from homemade, “healthier,” and definitely more delicious caramel apples!
Caramel is essentially burnt sugar, which makes sugar, of some kind, an essential ingredient (although I have made a “version” of caramel apples with date paste, but I dare not call it a caramel apple.) I swapped out standard, empty calorie, white sugar for my favorite natural sweetener – coconut palm sugar. Coconut palm sugar has a deep caramel flavor so I knew it would taste delicious. When eating coconut palm it is similar to eating an apple; it is a natural sugar that is full of potassium and other micro-nutrients that your body recognizes and can use. Sugar is pimped baby!
Next up, couldn’t be simpler, heavy cream. In a pinch organic heavy cream would be fine here, but I wanted to make this allergen free for my clients that are avoiding dairy so I swapped out the dairy for a plant product, coconut milk. The coconut milk is thick and creamy and lends the smallest hint of coconut to the caramel, which is uber delicious.
I went apple picking this weekend, so the real star of this recipe is the fresh-from-the-tree apple.
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1 cup full fat coconut milk
pinch of salt
6-8 craft sticks
1. Remove the stem from each apple and place a craft stick into the top.
2. In a large pot on medium heat combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, stir for 4-5 minutes until dark and thick. Then remove from heat.
3. Carefully (the caramel concoction will be extremely hot) swirl the apples into the caramel sauce. If the sauce is too thick allow to cool slightly and spread caramel on apples.
4. Roll apples in toppings of your choice, chopped nuts, coconut, chocolate, etc.
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