Let me be clear: this is not an early holiday post. Because no matter what the Christmas displays at Duane Reade would have you believe, the holidays are still a long way off. So don't be fooled by the rosy coloring, the curly ribbon and the sweets fit for stocking stuffing. This post is not about kicking off the holiday season.
So what is it about? It's about the apples that linger in my refrigerator each week, left-over from the bushel I haul home from the Greenmarket. About the giant spool of red ribbon in my desk, a remnant of my Little Red Riding Hood Halloween costume. About my need to snack on something sweet every evening while gossiping with my girlfriends over g-chat. But most of all, it's about the fact that as soon as I read the words "red wine caramel" while perusing Epicurious during yesterday's lunch break, I knew that I needed to make some as soon as possible.
Let me repeat that in case you didn't take it in the first time: red wine caramel. As in, my two favorite things in the world combined. Red wine is reduced in a saucepan until it becomes slightly syrupy (and your entire house smells deliciously boozy), and then it's stirred into a simple caramel sauce. The result is a rich, sweet, grown-up version of a childhood favorite that I will be enjoying all winter long. Along with a glass of red wine, naturally.
Red Wine Caramel Apples
Recipe from Gourmet, October 2009
Available via Epicurious
8 apples, stemmed, rinsed, and scrubbed to remove any wax
1 1/2 cups red wine (I used Malbec)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons heavy cream
8 wooden sticks or popsicle sticks
Line a tray with a piece of lightly greased wax paper or tinfoil. Insert a wooden stick halfway into each apple. Heat the red wine in a saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8-10 minutes. Set the wine aside to cool.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir the sugar and water over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Then, cook without stirring until the caramel turns a deep amber color, swirling the pan as necessary to make sure it browns evenly (once the caramel starts to turn golden, watch it carefully as it can burn very quickly). Add the wine (careful, the mixture will bubble up) and swirl the pan to incorporate. Add the cream and simmer the mixture until a candy thermometer registers 238 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the caramel sauce to cool to 200.
Holding the apples by their sticks, dip one at a time into the caramel sauce, rotating each apple until it's coated. Let the excess drip off, and then invert the apple, holding it stick side down (being careful not to let any hot caramel drip on your fingers) so that the caramel distributes evenly over the apple. Place each apple, stick side up, on the prepared tray to cool and solidify, about half an hour.