I heard it said once that a person is best judged not by their successes, but by their failures — and their reaction to them.
So I guess my little hissy fit when my caramel apples failed miserably makes me a double loser.
You see, I was planning on making a huge batch of mini-caramel apples for neighbors and friends.
I’d done my research, viewed different kinds and methods ad nauseum on Pinterest, and I was ready to tackle a new kind of caramel apple. They’d be bite-sized and adorable, right?
So confident of my future success, I went to the market and bought lots of great toppings for my mini apples.
Time to pull them together. Now what could possibly go wrong?
How about everything?
Witness my failure.
I was planning on making a hundred or so of these, and I only ended up with two (two!) that were somewhat decent looking.
On all the others, the caramel either refused to stick initially or slid off the apple like a sloppy drunk. My apples looked atrocious.
That’s an abysmal 2% success rate –– my worst culinary attempt in years.
As if eighty or so bald apples weren’t bad enough, I still don’t know what went wrong.
Dear readers, care to venture a guess as to how I ran amuck?
I’d made a mental checklist, and followed each piece of advice.
Tip one — start with room temp apples. Okay.
Tip two — toss the scooped apple balls (I used my tiniest ice cream scoop) in a liquid that will retard browning (either a carbonated soda with citric acid or lemon juice). Done.
Tip three had me scrupulously pat each one dry so that the caramel would adhere. Allegedly adhere.
Tip four cautioned that the caramel sauce should be neither too thin or thick. Gotcha.
Tip five was to let the caramel cool before dipping apple. Check.
Following all of these tips failed to pay off; the caramel kept sliding off, and in no time, the few apples that survived this process started to weep on the counter.
You can see it starting to happen here already.
Let the swearing begin in earnest.
As the caramel started to slide off the apples, I desperately tried to spoon the caramel back onto the apples and then I threw them into the fridge, trying to get them to firm up.
And that’s when things really went off the rails.
I should have taken a picture of how terrible they looked. I had an army of naked apple orbs shivering in a puddle of runny caramel on my hands, but I was so annoyed by this debacle that I didn’t have it in me to chronicle this chaos.
What a disaster.
I was hosting a giant sleepover at the time, and I’d promised caramel apples. I ended up running to the store to buy really good ice vanilla bean ice cream and I served it with the (now chopped up) apples and caramel goo on top.
There weren’t too many complaints for this switcheroo, but the memory of those dismal little apples stuck with me.
Caramel apples are now my Waterloo.
I woke up yesterday morning with the deep desire to redeem myself in the kitchen.
I still had so many apples to use — and a bag of caramels remained.
It was time to forget previous mishaps and move on to something heavenly.
Caramel Apple Vanilla Crisps.
But first things first.
It was a new day and I realized I needed a delicious palate cleanser that could dispense with the taste of failure on my lips.
What better way to do that than with an Entenmann’s Apple Cider Donut?
I’m not a donut connoisseur but when plain delicious bumps heads with nostalgia, you’ve got a solid winner.
And because I had a houseful of hungry teenagers, it was time for a big breakfast before baking.
Smoothies, these apple cider donuts, scrambled eggs with sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese and Canadian bacon.
No one tells you when you give birth to a boy that a dozen years later these boys won’t likely break your heart — but they will eat you out of house and home.
Teenage boys are like termites on steroids — only with expensive orthodonture.
A dozen eggs and two pints of egg whites will only go so far with a table full of hungry teenagers.
Time to start on the dessert.
Here’s a tip — I found that a cookie sheet works even better than a bowl for making a homemade crisp (or pie) topping.
It may be unorthodox, but you can see all the clumps of butter that need working and it allows you to be more thorough than with a bowl (where it’s easy to keep focusing on the top or middle part).
I made an oatmeal brown sugar topping — so easy to pull together in just a few minutes.
I had seven individual aluminum pans with lids — and still over twenty pounds of apples from my Hood River Apple People Sale — so I was ready for a big production.
I peeled all the apples (mostly Granny Smith with some Red Striped thrown in), sliced them thick and then tossed them with lemon juice, lots of vanilla and spices (ginger, cinammon, clove and nutmeg, salt and a bit of black pepper, a trick I learned from a professional baker), and added all the crumbly oatmeal topping on top.
And here’s what made the real magic happen.
I cut up a whole bag of Kraft caramels and tucked them into the crisp topping in the last ten minutes of cooking.
Honest to God– with the smell of vanilla and spices, warm apples and browning caramel wafting through my house, I almost passed out with anticipation.
All they needed was a touch of powdered sugar to give them a soft, dreamy appearance.
Like a welcome light dusting of snow on Christmas morning.
I packed them up while still warm — I wanted them to arrive just after lunch and before all the pre-trick or treating preening.
In the midst of an unbelievable Halloween downpour, I threw the packaged crisps in the car and set out to visit some folks with some edible thank you’s.
There were volunteers at school who’d worked so hard this week, and I wanted to check in on some of my seniors I hadn’t seen for a while (after seven years, I’m on a hiatus from Meals on Wheels at the moment).
So there you have it.
Rising from the ashes of my failed caramel apples rose my Phoenix-like Apple Caramel Crisps.
The only thing I’d do differently is next time I would put the caramels in with the filling instead of at the end on top– that way the caramel would melt into a wonderful sauce inside.
Hope you all had a great Halloween!
If you’ve got any great tips you want to share on caramel apples — or you care to share your own cooking disasters — I’d love to hear from you.
Okay, is anyone else rummaging through their kid’s candy stash right now?