A more grown-up version of my childhood favorite made with pears, hazelnuts, and cinnamon sticks.
I recently decided to make caramel apples for the first time. Not the bright red, hard candy-shelled type, but the sticky, gooey version from my childhood—all rolled up in a tight weave of ground peanuts, of course.
When I was little, I remember visiting the Affy Tapple outlet on North Clark Street in Chicago with my mother on weekends. The trip was followed by a stop at the Romanian Kosher Butcher, just a block down, for beef hot dogs and summer sausage. I'm pretty sure she chose the sweet shop first, to distract me with the sticky mess.
So when I mentioned the caramel apples to Erin Zimmer, my new favorite friend at Serious Eats, we were in the midst of holiday madness and finding the time to dip apples seemed difficult (I envisioned Christmas gifts covered in sticky fingerprints, and loose peanuts in my buche de noel). She assured me that caramel apples would still be in vogue in 2010, and not to worry.
Well, I didn't.
Instead, I started dreaming up new ideas, and after running into Ed Levine on New Year's Eve, came up with some creative ideas.
Since I'm not seven-years-old anymore (although some might agree I still behave like I am), and have managed to find my way into a professional kitchen (clearly, I was lost that day), I thought I should create a more grown-up version of my childhood favorite with apples: introducing caramel pears.
They are covered in toasted hazelnuts (thanks for the tip, Ed) and even garnished with cinnamon sticks. A little cellophane and raffia and I might put Affy Tapple out of business.
- 6 Seckle pears
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons dark corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 generous pinch sea salt
Trim the stems off the top of the pears and pierce with the cinnamon sticks to create a handle.
Place pears on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Set aside.
Spread chopped hazelnuts onto a plate. Set aside.
Combine 3/4 cup cream, sugar, corn syrup and butter in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until it registers 280°F on a candy thermometer.
Immediately remove the caramel from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of cream.
While working quickly dip one pear about 3/4 deep into the caramel, using a spoon to coat the top of each piece of fruit.
Follow by rolling the caramel-coated pear in the hazelnuts and return to the baking sheet.
Repeat these last two steps with the remaining pears and let sit at room temperature to set.