Saying Farewell to Gourmet with Red Wine Caramel Apples

The recession has directly affected my life in many, many ways, but for some reason this week's announcement of Condé Nast shutting down Gourmet magazine felt oddly personal. Maybe because the magazine was responsible for roughly one-third of Bon Appetempt's posts? Or because it was the first food magazine I subscribed to? Or because of all the food mags Gourmet seemed to allot the most space to food writers and I'd recently written an essay on failure in food and life that I'd been looking to pitch to the editors?

Probably all of that has something to do with my reaction, but I think what it boils down to is that Gourmet was like my AIG or Lehman Brothers. It had been around since the 40s. It was 69 years old. It was too beautiful to fail!

Apart from writing letters to Condé Nast, the only other thing we felt we could do was this little tribute to the most recent issue that arrived in our mailbox.

Gourmet's version:

our version:
As you may have guessed, the recipe involves apples. Our market didn't have macintosh available, so we went with The Jonagold Apple, which is apparently a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Jonathan apple.

For better or worse we did not have Popsicle sticks, so we went for the next best thing on hand: wooden chopsticks.

All you need to make this attempt your very own:

First, you reduce the red wine. Then, in a separate pot, you make the caramel by boiling sugar and water. Next, you add the wine reduction and the heavy cream and let it simmer.
Once it cools down a bit, you get the apple in there, which brings us to where the project became a minor fail. The recipe calls for a few gadgets that we didn't have and decided not to purchase--one of which being a candy thermometer. We were supposed to get the caramel up to 238°F and then bring it down to 200°F.

Apparently we haven't learned our lesson that science sometimes cannot be eyeballed. (We stuck the apple in the sauce when Matt turned to me and said, "That looks like 200°F.") Sooooo, the red wine caramel never thickened to the point it should have, and what resulted was an extremely thin layer--a tiny hint of caramel covering the apple.

That being admitted, the stuff was delicious. It tasted like the best pie filling we ever had. We ate it straight off the spoon and then later, Matt put it over ice cream. It just never achieved the thickness we had come to expect from a caramel apple.

At first, we assumed that this was our fault, a consequence to our unscientific approach (and it still most likely is), but upon checking out the recipe on Gourmet's site (which is still there as of now, thank God), it appears that others have also found that this particular caramel recipe doesn't thicken enough to really stick to the apples.
But we can't and won't go out on Gourmet with a fail. (The next two and a half lines should be read in the voice that Mel Gibson uses to summon his army in Braveheart.) No. This will not be our last Gourmet appettempt. We will go on attempting(!!) via The Best of Gourmet as Matt's parents recently bought us the book pictured below. And though I loved it before this news, it now seems like a rare artifact, a reminder of what a gorgeous, inspiring, and thoughtful publication Gourmet was.

And thus, Gourmet lives on!

Makes 8 apples
Active Time:30 MIN
Start to Finish:1 HR

8 small McIntosh apples, stemmed, washed well, and dried
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons heavy cream

EQUIPMENT: 8 wooden ice-pop sticks; a candy thermometer

Insert a wooden stick halfway into each apple at stem end. Line a tray with wax paper and lightly grease paper.

Boil wine in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 21/2- to 3-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber. Add reduced wine (mixture will bubble up and steam) and swirl pan. Add cream and simmer, stirring, until incorporated, then continue to simmer until thermometer registers 238°F. Remove from heat and cool to 200°F.

Holding apples by the sticks, dip them in caramel and swirl to coat, letting excess drip off, then hold apples up (stick end down) for about 15 seconds to allow more caramel to set on apples. Put caramel apples, stick side up, on greased wax paper and let stand until caramel firms up, about 30 minutes.

COOKS’ NOTE: If caramel becomes too thick* to coat apples, reheat over low heat to loosen.

*not gonna happen
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Matt said...

I think it's just a thin caramel sauce -- the apple in Gourmet's picture looks like it only has a very thin layer too. Regardless, the red wine caramel was sooooo good.

Jodi said...

A fitting and beautiful tribute to a great publication. Well done. (Also, making caramel without a thermometer? CA-RAY-ZEE!)

Neal said...

Making caramel without using a thermometer is like making a baby without using a penis.

Sprouted Kitchen said...

what a cute site! I am SO GLAD you post mistakes, i think that makes us real as food bloggers. Thanks for your comment, be in touch!

James said...

Perfect Fall appetempt. Makes me nostalgic, haven't had a caramel apple in forever.

George Gaston said...

Caramel Apples always makes me think of pumpkin picking, the county fair and the glorious colors of the fall season. Now you have made a grown-up Caramel Apple ~ how good is that!

As for farewell to Gourmet, I'm feeling this is like Coca Cola's "new coke" ~ Why did you do it, Condé Nast?

brynne said...

Thank god for The Best of Gourmet. That cookbook is great.

Courtney said...

still a beautiful appetempt! and what a good idea to put the sauce over ice cream.

that book looks INCREDIBLE. i should probably snatch a copy before it becomes a relic. how sad :(

El said...

I just came across your site and love it. Great tribute to Gourmet!

Heather Taylor said...

amels - did you hear ruth reichl on fresh air? very good!

Tony Kerkett said...

Nice post !!!