Just when it seemed that the colors simply couldn’t get any brighter, any more breathtakingly stunning, they did. I felt like going out and standing in the yard for hours, turning slowly round and round to take each angle in, to hold the world just like that in my view for as long as I could. It was so beautiful that it was almost painful to see it – a curious mixture of tragedy and joy in realizing that something is as magnificent as it possibly can be, and simultaneously understanding that before you really come around to grasping fully its immensity, it will have already begun to fade.
But such is life. We curiously crave to hold things still, bring them into focus and examine them as they are – pulling the complexity of reality into one striking snapshot in time. But then we miss the dance. Life is always in transition. Today the rain fell and the breezes blew and already many of the leaves are down. And yet, I am not filled with sorrow as I thought I might. I am filled with wonder that each day the world can look so dramatically different than the day before it. Life dances on and there is the magic.
Yesterday we took a long drive to savor the leaves in their fullest moment of glory. To take them in before they fell. We drove down winding roads and occasionally pulled off just to gaze in wonderment. There were misty clouds moving over the mountains, letting patches of light fall here and there in little islands of luminance. We stopped for a coffee and a croissant at a little French bakery over on the other side of the mountain (a place built in an old laundry mat with high ceilings and big open windows letting light cascade in – good for people watching too) and then slowly meandered our way home down winding back roads. It was a good day, a day I think I will remember.
Somewhere along the way home, I thought of caramel apples. It seemed the perfect conclusion to such a day. I can’t remember the last time I even ate one – but there was something about it that felt so perfectly right. Tart, crisp apples embraced with gooey, sticky caramel – the taste of burnt sugar and salt and sour apple. It was what the day would taste like, I think, if it had a flavor. A fleeting moment of extravagant sweetness in the ever changing dance of life.
Caramel apples are a treat, not meant to disguise themselves as being anything but. I have, however, endeavored to make them using wholesome ingredients – omitting the corn syrup and other such atrocities often found hiding behind their cloying candy-shop sweetness. Instead, I have used honey and molasses to sweeten, and a good organic cream with a hint of vanilla and kiss of Celtic sea salt.
As a side note, I was hesitant about the honey at first, as I have always gone by the Ayurvedic belief that cooking honey destroys its medicinal benefits. Yet, in the end I can’t imagine that cooked honey could be any worse for my body than refined sugar – and indeed it is a good deal better for the Earth as it comes from my neighbor, rather than thousands of miles away. So honey it is.
- 6-8 small apples
- 1 cup organic cream, preferably from pasture raised cows
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon quality sea salt (Celtic, Fluer de sel, etc)
- 1 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon molasses
Place wooden skewers through the stems of each of your apples, and place on a tray lined with wax paper. Fill a bowl with cold water and place in the freezer in preparation for later.
Place the cream, salt and vanilla in a medium-sized saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat on medium until the cream begins to bubble along the edges of the pan. At this point, add the honey and molasses and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for 10 or 15 minutes, until the mixture reaches about 255 degrees F on a candy thermometer. At this point, remove from heat and very very carefully immerse your hot pan into the bowl of cold water that you prepared earlier. Please use caution here as there is nothing that will spoil your day like getting scalded with magma hot sugar. Keep stirring the caramel until it starts to thicken up a little – you want it to be a little thicker rather than runnier when you start dipping. If it gets too thick simply put it back on the heat for a few seconds.
Hold the pan with one hand and tilt it so the caramel pools on one side. Use your other hand to dip the apples, swirling them round to cover as much surface as you can. Place each onto the wax paper lined tray and leave to set for about 15 or 20 minutes. If you wish, you can also roll them in toasted hazelnuts after they’ve set a little.