In the kitchen with Nina: Caramel and apples, a marriage made in heaven

Salted Caramel Nachos in Robins on Monday, Sep. 25, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Salted Caramel Nachos in Robins on Monday, Sep. 25, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

It’s time for apples ... and caramel. I love the combination, and I have developed numerous recipes featuring the two foods together. There are so many types of apples to choose from — old standards such as red and yellow delicious, to the newer and maybe more popular, Honeycrisp, Gala and Envy. Each year there are new varieties on the market. I don’t know about you, but I’m eager to taste all the new ones this year. There are several great apple orchards in our local area to visit. We also like to make a day trip to Gay’s Mills, Wis., to purchase apples each year.

There are many ways to purchase caramels, too. From the classic Kraft caramel squares to caramel bits, caramel ice cream toppings, caramel dip (found in the produce section) and 5 pound blocks of caramel to use for making Gourmet Caramel Apples. I also like to make my own homemade caramels at holiday time. I will be offering several candy-making classes during November and December this year.

You’ve probably noticed the fast-growing popularity of salted caramels. Many of us love this sweet and salty combination. I’ve included three new salted caramel products — salted caramel ice cream topping, salted caramel baking bits and salted caramel pretzel pieces in my “Nachos” recipe. I’ve also given you the option to adding salt flakes to one of the dessert recipes to make it a “salted caramel” dessert.

My recipe for Caramel-Apple Coffee Cake features tart apples with a homemade caramel sauce. This could be a perfect addition to your weekend brunch with friends.

The Salted Caramel-Apple “Nachos” recipe is a fun party food to serve at harvest, Halloween or tailgate parties. Let the kids help you prepare this recipe. Look for one of the new apple-slicing gadgets that cores and slices apples into 16 wedges all at once.

I developed the Caramel-Apple Walnut Bars several years ago for a food client of mine. The recipe uses apple pie filling and caramel dip, so it’s extra easy. When developing my recipes, one of the factors I always use to determine whether I have “arrived” at a perfect recipe, is when I can’t stop tasting it. I just kept wanting another bite and another. ... When I first served these bars to my favorite recipe tester, my husband, Ron, and a few co-workers, they couldn’t stop eating the bars, either. That’s when I knew this recipe was a keeper. You’ll need a fork to eat these ooey-gooey bars.

So, head to the kitchen and start baking. I think you’re going to love these caramel-apple recipes.

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l Nina Swan-Kohler of Robins is a professional home economist, recipe developer, cookbook author and cooking school instructor. She is author of “Tailgates to Touchdowns.” For more information visit www.cookingwithnina.net or contact her at swankohler@cs.com

Caramel-Apple Walnut Bars

Makes 12 to 24 bars, depending on size of bars.

If you like sweet and salty, add the salt flakes to this dessert right after it comes out of the oven to create a salted-caramel version.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

1 cup cold butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 large egg

3 tablespoons clover honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can (21 ounce) apple pie filling

1 cup caramel apple dip (found in the produce section)

1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Salt flakes, optional (Maldon Brand recommended)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place flour, brown sugar and butter in food processor, pulse until crumbly. Or mix in a bowl with hands until crumbly. Remove 1 cup crumbs; set aside. Add egg, honey and salt to food processor or bowl. Pulse/stir until smooth. Spoon into 9x13x2-inch baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Spoon apple pie filling over batter. Scoop teaspoonfuls of caramel dip evenly over top the apple pie filling. Combine reserved crumbs with walnuts; sprinkle over top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until center is set. Sprinkle lightly with salt flakes, if desired. Cool completely. Cut into bars.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

Caramel Apple Coffee Cake

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Caramelized Apple Topping

5 tablespoons butter

4 medium apples (Golden Delicious, Granny Smith or Jonathan), peeled, cored and sliced

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3 tablespoons whipping cream

Dough

2 cups baking mix (Pioneer Brand recommended)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup heavy whipping cream 1 teaspoon vanilla

Streusel Topping

3/4 cup baking mix (Pioneer Brand recommended)

1/2 chopped pecans

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt butter in medium skillet; add apples. Cook and gently stir until apples are crisp-tender (about 3 minutes) over medium-high heat. Stir in 2/3 cup brown sugar and corn syrup. Cook until mixture is slightly thickened. Stir in cream; cook for 1 minute. Let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, stir together baking mix, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup pecans, baking powder, cream and vanilla until dough forms. Turn out onto surface dusted with all-purpose flour. Knead 5 to 7 times. Pat into a 13-inch round deep-dish pizza pan or 13x9x2-inch baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, make streusel topping by stirring together the ingredients in a bowl. To assemble, spoon cooled apple topping on crust, then sprinkle streusel topping over apples. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and center is set.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

Salted Caramel-Apple “Nachos”

Nachos take on a whole new meaning with this quick-to-make dessert.

Makes about 8 servings.

1 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 to 3 Granny Smith, Golden Delicious or Jonagold apples

2 to 3 Honeycrisp or Braeburn apples

1/2 cup caramel or salted caramel ice cream topping

1/4 cup hot fudge ice cream topping

1/2 cup roasted nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews or peanuts)

1/2 cup pretzel sticks or salted caramel pretzel pieces

2 tablespoons salted caramel baking bits or toffee bits, optional

Place water and lemon juice in large bowl. Cut apples in 14 to 16 slices each, removing cores. (I like to use a special gadget to do this.) Place apple slices in bowl of lemon water to rinse. (This will keep them from turning brown.) Drain; arrange apples on serving platter. Drizzle caramel and hot fudge ice cream toppings over apples. (If ice cream toppings are too thick to drizzle, heat on high in microwave for 10 seconds.) Sprinkle nuts, pretzels and baking bits over top. Serve immediately.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

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