Ontario Baco Noir Caramel Apples

Ontario Apple Growers recently launched their very first blogger challenge: a quest for the very best candy apple recipe. The challenge was inspired by the 200th anniversary of the McIntosh apple and the grandiose Winter Apple Ball, a free family event taking place at the Westin Harbour Castle this Family Day, Monday, February 21st. Attendance is free and they will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most simultaneous apple bobs.

The rules for the blogger challenge in which I am entering are pretty simple. Candy apple recipes must include any apple variety grown in Ontario, from the following list, and recipes can contain as many ingredients as desired.

Since this contest was honouring the McIntosh, my apple selection was straightforward. In researching a bit of apple history, I discovered that all McIntosh apples are descendants of a single tree that was discovered in 1811 by John McIntosh in his farm near Dundas, Ontario. It feels extra special and extra local because the McIntosh has been consumed by us in this region for so long. I always have a special relationship with apple recipes because my mother's maiden name is Õunapuu, which means appletree in Estronian. This fruit is in my blood!

For the rest of the ingredients, I wanted to show love to the Ontario Apple Growers' compadres so I stuck with local ingredients. Organic local hazelnuts, sugar and Ontario cream. My real inspiration for this recipe came from the cozy winter flavours of mulled wine and hot apple cider. I added a big, bold Ontario baco noir to the caramel for a little adult flavour and a crispy crunch from the toasted hazelnut topping. I've been quite pleased with the result.

8 small McIntosh apples, stems removed, washed well, and dried
8 cinnamon sticks
2 cups of whole hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups of Henry of Pelham's Baco Noir or another bold Ontario red
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of water
6 tablespoons heavy cream

8 wooden sticks
candy thermometer
wax paper
spray vegetable oil
baking tray

To wash the apples, I mix up a little baking soda into a paste and scrub them down. I recall from a previous attempt at making candy apples that their skins can't have any hint of wax or surface coating or else the candy won't stick. 

Small apples are preferable over big ones for candy apples because they offer a better to candy-to-apple ratio as well as  a less overwhelming portion.

  1. Insert a wooden stick halfway into each apple at the stem end. Line a tray with wax paper and lightly grease paper.
  2. Boil wine in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 12 minutes.) Remove from heat.
  3. At the same time, roast the whole hazelnuts  until they darken in colour. Once gently toasted, remove from heat to let cool.
  4. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil, but don't use any stirring devices. You can swirl the pan occasionally so the caramel darkens evenly. Simmer until it's a dark amber.
  5. Add reduced wine (combination will bubble and steam) and swirl pan. Add cream, stir as it simmers until all the ingredients are incorporated, then continue to simmer until thermometer registers 238°F. Remove from heat and cool to 200°F.
  6. Chop the hazelnuts and place them in a small bowl.
  7. Holding apples by the sticks, dip them in caramel and swirl them to coat. Let the  excess drip off, then hold apples up (stick end down) for about 15 seconds to allow caramel to coat apple tops. Roll the bottom (stick up) gently in the chopped, roasted hazelnuts. 
  8. Put caramel apples on greased wax paper and let stand until caramel firms up (30 minutes.)
Enjoy the sophisticated flavour of toasted hazelnuts and wine as a new pair with the classic comfort of a caramel apple.


    1. We're loving your recipe and instructions! We've posted it to our Facebook; "Like" us to check it out! http://www.facebook.com/redpathsugar
      -The Redpath Sugar Acts of Sweetness Team

    2. That's awesome. Thanks so much, Kendel. I like supporting local food businesses. Much love for Redpath.