Yesterday, I savored one of my favorite fall treats, a crisp, luscious caramel apple. It's a variation of the candy apple, or toffee apple. While the toppings vary from place to place, there is always a stick inserted in the core, for easy eating. My personal preference, is a firm, tart apple, like Granny Smith or Fuji, dipped in caramel and coated in chopped peanuts. The orchard where we like to buy apples sold the world's best homemade caramel apples, made by a local farm woman. She passed away several years ago, and I've never found one quite so delicious as hers, until yesterday. Where did I find it? My little Aldi store, of all places. Three in a pack for $1.29.
Toffee apples are a common treat at autumn festivals in Western culture in the Northern Hemisphere, such as Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night because they happen to fall in the center of the annual apple harvest. In Germany and Latin American countries, they are most often associated with the Christmas season, and in China, a similar treat called Tanghulu is made by coating small fruits, traditionally hawthorns, with hard sugar syrup.
The most common coating is a hard layer of cooled sugar syrup, usually tinted red and sometimes flavored with cinnamon. The sugar syrup is heated to the "hard crack" stage before coating the apple to make a hard coating when the syrup cools. Other variations include caramel or taffy apples, and chocolate apples, rolled in assorted goodies, like sprinkles or coconut.
I'm not sure we Americans can claim the first candy apple, but this is what the Newark Evening News had to say in 1964:
William W. Kolb invented the red candy apple. Kolb, a veteran Newark candy-maker, produced his first batch of candied apples in 1908. While experimenting in his candy shop with red cinnamon candy for the Christmas trade, he dipped some apples into the mixture and put them in the windows for display. He sold the whole first batch for 5 cents each and later sold thousands yearly. Soon candied apples were being sold along the Jersey Shore, at the circus and in candy shops across the country, according to the Newark News in 1948.