There are stories well-planned and stories spontaneous.
This tale sits at the sticky-sweet spot where these tacks collide.
My editor, Cassie Armstrong, and I have planning calls on occasion to discuss stories upcoming — and the Halloween season is a fun one for recipes. In the past, I’ve featured eyeball-studded cocktails and creative ways to repackage leftover trick-or-treat candy. This year, for reasons I can’t quite recall, she was jazzed by the idea of caramel apples — and sent me a few links.
The “poison” ones — inky, black-lacquer caramel on beautiful green Granny Smiths — spoke to my love of Tim Burton and black, sparkly lipstick, of fangs and horns, of fairy tales and heavy metal. And the places where all these things overlap. I was excited to make them. But, also skeptical.
Making candy isn’t rocket science, but sugar can be tricky if you’re not practiced.
I am not.
So rather that wait ‘til the last minute to find out if this was going to be a bust, I got started early.
Seeing as how Michaels starts selling the Halloween stuff in July, I wasn’t surprised that the black-twig sticks were long since sold out, but I’d at least hoped someone would have the black food coloring the recipe required. I hit three stores before Googling a recipe that melded red, blue and green for a homemade black and decided to compromise.
I hand-painted white sticks with jagged black stripes, like witchy stockings on spindly legs. I rinsed the wax from the apples (absolutely mandatory for adherence). I hammered in chopsticks for perfect-fit channels. And I got started.
The caramel, an amalgam of sugar, water, corn syrup, vanilla and heavy cream, came together quite nicely. The flavor was right on the money. The color looked rich and ravishing, Maleficent-sexy bubbling in its tiny cauldron — which happened to be orange.