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Candied apples a sweet memory

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Kennywood's candied apples were a big hit with former Pittsburgher Bernadette Coppola from Sacramento. "The last time I visited Pittsburgh," she writes, "I went to Kennywood and had one of their candied apples, which was wonderful. I do know that the coating is a fairly simple recipe, but there must be some secret to getting a crisp, thin coating, because I just can't find the same quality elsewhere. I've tried my hand at making them but never can match it."


Bernadette is correct: The recipe is fairly simple. All you need are corn syrup, sugar, water and a candy thermometer. The secret to making candied or taffy apples is accurate measuring, accurate timing and patience.

We had all of those -- but still we had a problem. The syrup hardened before we had a chance to dip all the apples. Our saucepan was placed in another pot of hot water, as the recipe instructed, and we cooked the syrup to the correct temperature. What did we do wrong? Before we tried another batch, we consulted our trusty "All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking." Here's what we learned:

A smooth candy syrup can turn into a huge grainy blob in an instant. It's caused by the sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan. To avoid the crystals from forming you should:

*Brush down any crystals on the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in hot water.

*Don't stir the syrup once it begins to boil.

*"Avoid scraping the dregs from the pan. The crystallization rate of the syrup nearest the bottom of the pan, which has been exposed to the greatest heat, is faster than that of the free-flowing syrup. Adding the former to the latter can cause the entire batch to crystallize."

Genevieve Bodga of McKees Rocks sent the recipe for taffy (candied) apples we're featuring today. "I used to make these by the dozens for my children and neighbor children. They all liked them." And we liked them, too.

The following day we made another batch of syrup. This time we made a few adjustments to Genevieve's recipe and followed the advice from "Joy of Cooking."

Taffy Apples

  • 5 medium apples, washed, dried and stems removed
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • Cinnamon stick (optional)
  • Red food coloring
  • Wooden skewers, see tester's note

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper; spray lightly with cooking spray.

Insert a wooden skewer into the stem end of each apple.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil -- boil without stirring for 3 minutes. Brush down any crystals on the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in hot water. Boil until the syrup reaches 290 degrees (soft-crack stage, see note) and the syrup just begins to discolor. Remove the cinnamon stick. Immediately place the saucepan into a larger pot filled with hot (not boiling) water to the syrup from hardening.

Add food coloring (we used about 7 drops). Working quickly, dip apples into syrup. Coat the apples evenly with the glaze. Twirl the apple at the end so the extra syrup drips off. Set the apples on prepared cookie sheet.

Wait until the apples dry and cool completely before wrapping.

Note: Soft crack stage is achieved when firm strands can be stretched or bent when removed from the water.

Tester's note: We found wooden skewers at Sugar & Spice Cake & Candy Shop, 5200 Clairton Blvd. , Baldwin Borough.


Gretchen Haushalter-Hardy of Virginia Beach, Va., writes: "I live in Virginia, but I was born in Pittsburgh. My mother and her brothers, who also live in Virginia, return often to Pittsburgh and bring back items that are not available here. One favorite item is unfortunately no longer around.

"I was wondering if you could help me locate a recipe for the chocolate jimmy pound cake from Guentert's Bakery. I'm sure it was probably a vanilla or almond pound cake covered in chocolate and chocolate jimmies."

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood/-city/borough/township and state and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

Arlene Burnett can be reached at aburnett@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1577.

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