Toffee apples, also known as candy apples, are whole apples coated with a thin, crisp layer of sugar. The treats are commonly mistaken with caramel apples, with have a different coating altogether. Toffee apples are popular giveaways in Western cultures, often given to children during Halloween celebrations. Variations on the basic recipe include additional coatings, such as candy sprinkles and coconut shavings, and pre-cooking the apples to provide a different texture.
The most traditional way of preparing toffee apples is by melting sugar, syrup, and water together until a thick liquid is produced. An apple is skewered with a relatively long, heat-resistant stick and dunked into the still-hot toffee sauce. Once the apple is completely coated, it is pulled out of the mixture and allowed to cool. The coating should harden over time, creating the thin candy layer that characterizes toffee apples.
Chefs often mix other flavors into the toffee sauce to add variety to their toffee apples. One common accent is fresh cinnamon, as the spice is known to complement the taste of apples. Vanilla extract is another popular addition, lending its aroma and unique flavor to the candy shell. The apple can also be rolled in additional ingredients while the toffee coating is still hot; rainbow-colored candy sprinkles are one addition, bringing a festive look to the treats.
Some chefs pre-cook the apples to add even more variety to the traditional recipe. Apples can be softened by baking or stewing, adding a contrast to the crisp outer shell. Another popular method of preparing toffee apples is to slice the fruits into smaller pieces, making them easier to bite and enjoy.
The crisp candy shell is a quality that distinguishes toffee apples from caramel apples and other apple sweets. Although both treats involve dipping apples into sugary sauces, the coating of caramel apples is usually chewier. Caramel apples also require the use of milk to produce the coating, making toffee apples the preferred choice for individuals with lactose intolerance.
Although toffee apples can be enjoyed at any time of the year, they are most popular during the months in which apple trees yield their biggest harvests; in many countries, these months revolve between the third and fourth quarter of the year. This makes the treats a common sight in festivals and celebrations from September to November. Halloween is the occasion most associated with toffee apples, as some homeowners prefer to give the fruits rather than candy to trick-or-treaters, but the apples are also a treat during Guy Fawkes Night in the regions that celebrate it.