I had the idea to use pears (instead of the traditional apples) after seeing white chocolate covered pears on Martha Stewart. Meant to be Halloween ghosts, they were cute, but the chocolate cracked right off when you cut them up to eat. I figured the caramel would help hold things together, so I tried it. Amazing flavor, and you won't find them anywhere else.
Plus, pears seem very Christmas-like. Partridge in a Pear Tree and all that.
You want a pear that'snot quite ripe, otherwise the stick just comes right back out, and you won't have anything to hold on to while you dip it. The boiling water and warm caramel starts them ripening, so by the time you eat them, they're just right.
The big secret to caramel dipping success is simple: dip the fruit in boiling water for about 10 seconds. This removes any waxes or other residue, and the caramel is guaranteed to stick.
I can't recall where I ran across this valuable nugget of information, but it wasn't on Martha.
So, here it is, my personal recipe/directions for making your own gourmet caramel pears/apples.
4 D'Anjou pears, or 4 Granny Smith apples
4 sticks (usually included in bag of caramels)
small saucepan of boiling water
1 14 oz bag of Kraft caramels (about 50) or 11 oz bag of caramel bits
1 Tbl water
Butter for waxed paper
2 Tbl sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
12 oz bag Nestle Premier white chocolate chips
2 Tbl shortening
Prepare fruit by washing thoroughly and inserting stick. Then dip in boiling water for about 10 seconds, and allow to dry. This removes all residues and waxes from the fruit, which allows the caramel to stick. (this will also discolor the fruit a little, so make sure the top part that will not be covered in caramel is not dipped in the water, to maintain a nice appearance)
Butter your waxed paper and set on a cookie sheet (in case you need to move it) or on your counter.
Unwrap all the caramels and put in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1 Tbl water. Microwave on high for 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Caramels will not all look melted;
stir to complete melting.
You can microwave for 30 seconds more if needed, but it’s important not to overcook. If the caramel seems really stiff, you can add a little more water, but not too much, or it will be too runny to stick to the pears.
Tilt the bowl, and dip and swirl fruit in melted caramel until evenly coated, then set on buttered waxed paper to cool.
It should take at least ½ hour to set up enough to dip in chocolate. (You can set up faster if you place your cookie sheet on top of ice or other frozen stuff. I have a serving platter with an insert you freeze to help keep the platter cold on a buffet, and I use that under my cookie sheet when I'm in a hurry.) You'll know it's set up enough when you can touch it without it sticking to your fingers.
(if you have more caramel, but no more fruit ready, scoop up caramel with a pretzel, and press another pretzel on top of that. dip in chocolate later, or not. yum.)
Mix together 2 Tbl sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in a shallow bowl and set aside.
Place white chocolate chips and 2 Tbl shortening in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high 1 ½ min. Not all the chips will look melted;
stir to complete melting (use a metal spoon - you don't want any extra moisture in this mixture).
Tilt bowl, and dip and swirl carameled fruit in chocolate until evenly coated.
Hold over bowl and swirl to allow excess to drip off. You can also run the edge of the spoon across the bottom of the fruit to help scrape off excess.
Dip and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture, and/or hold fruit over bowl and spoon/shake cinnamon sugar onto fruit. This is a little messy (and difficult to photograph by yourself - both hands are busy), because the chocolate will still be dripping a little, but you have to do it before the chocolate sets up, or the cinnamon sugar won’t stick. I discovered that if I put some in the bowl, to set the fruit on, and some in a shaker, to sprinkle over, it's a little less mess. You'll have some cinnamon sugar coated white chocolate drips in the bowl - but that's okay, because they're a tasty treat once they set up.
Set back on waxed paper and allow chocolate to harden before serving.
These will keep for only a few days. I don't recommend refrigerating them, just put in a covered container. If you refrigerate, they tend to get too chewy, plus, the juices will run, making it a bit soupy. I generally make them the night before an event, or, if I have time, first thing that morning.
Granny Smith apples have a tart flavor that I think goes nice with the sweetness of the white chocolate. Fuji are sweeter, and seem to go better with milk or dark chocolate. You can use any kind of apples, as long as they are crisp and fresh.
Substitute regular or dark chocolate chips for a different look and flavor, drizzle more melted chocolate over the first coating, or double or triple dip the fruit in different layers of chocolate. Use crushed cookies, chopped nuts, crushed candy bars, or sprinkles instead of cinnamon sugar.
If you already have a home-made caramel recipe you like, you can use that instead of melting commercial caramels. I just do it this way because it's reliable and easy.
Note to those not in the US: not sure what kind of caramels you guys have available. For this recipe, you want a soft chewy caramel.