To celebrate the planting of a new community orchard in Moretonhampstead we planned a series of apple themed activities at our youth club in October-November 2016. Toffee apples are simple and inexpensive BUT this activity is challenging simply because the hot sugar and the skewers represent serious risks unless managed sensibly! HOT SUGAR CAUSES SEVERE BURNS, IT IS VERY HOT AND IT STICKS TO SKIN.
We ran this as a youth club with 47 young people signed in during the session. Four trained adults were present at the club, plus four of the older young people were Helpers for the activity. We had one minor sugar burn but no other injuries and the young people really enjoyed the whole activity. Many were surprised how nice the apples inside were and most ate all of them (many children commented on this, i.e. “I never liked whole apples before”). It was a great way to talk about local seasonal food. This is how we did it……..
Activity prep: One week before activity we appealed for donations of local apples on our Facebook page and received a wonderful donation of 40 sweet eating apples from a parent of a youth club member. (Do use nice apples – you do not want to put the young people off eating fresh apples!)
Important: use a thick bottomed pan large enough that the planned quantity of hot sugar mix will not go higher than half way up the pan.
Shopping list and budget for 40 apples: packet of 100 long bamboo skewers (£1.11), two 180g tins of evaporated milk (£3), about 2 kg of sugar (we found caster sugar is best as it melts more quickly), a few squirts of golden syrup (we had left over in the cupboard), a large saucepan and long-handled wooden spoon, baking paper to cool apples down on. Mini marshmallows or sprinkles as required (if you use them make sure you have enough for everyone, or just leave them out)
We chose long skewers because they increase the distance between young people and the hot mixture when dipping apples – lolly sticks are not long enough with a large pan. They need to be pushed right into the apples so that the apples do not fall off.
Adult prep several hours before: Pick out any minibeasts hiding among your apples, remove any bad ones. Rinse apples in a bowl of boiling water, remove leaves and stalks, leave to dry on a clean towel. Put a long skewer most of the way through each apple and place in a child-free area.
Absolutely necessary: SUFFICIENT ADULT SUPERVISION THROUGHOUT YOUR CLUB. A cooker with restricted access to heat sugar on, counter with restricted or manageable access for groups of 3-4 (we have a bar area), child-free place to cool apples down, a sensible helper with pencil to write down names and help keep an eye. Some previous experience of cooking with sugar.
Allow 25 minutes to make your mixture up in your child-free cooking area. DO NOT RUSH THIS. Put evaporated milk in a large pan with some of the sugar and golden syrup and heat slowly initially, stirring all the time. Keep adding the sugar and keep stirring as it dissolves and turn up the heat to medium. You will end up with a viscous steadily boiling liquid.
You can leave it briefly for 15 seconds at a time to boil while you put some baking paper on trays. But keep an eye on it and keep stirring.
After 10 mins test it for set by putting a small blob on a plate next to the cooker. Keep it boiling and when your test blob cools, poke it to see how set it is. This will give you an idea of how well it will set and stay on the apple. Once you are satisfied it will set, turn the heat off but leave it on the hob to keep warm. To adjust the consistency you can add SMALL amounts of boiling water and stir in. You may find that the consistency changes between batches – do not worry, every time it will be delicious.
Call young people over 3-4 at a time so they are waiting on the other side of your bar or restricted access area.
Explain at the start that they MUST NOT touch the brown mixture and once the apple is dipped in it, they must not touch the apple either. If there is any chance they will wave their hot toffee apple around, or misunderstand you, the child cannot take part: get one-to-one help for individual children to facilitate access to this activity if necessary.
Put the baking paper tray with pencil and small bowl with skewered apples, invite them to choose an apple. I explained these were local apples and who they were donated by.
Bring over your pan of hot toffee. The young people will dip their apples in and you or your Helper can use the wooden spoon to pour over your mixture to cover apples.
Get each apple placed onto the tray and remove the pan, while your Helper is keeping an eye on the young people. The natural temptation to touch the apples is quite strong at this point! The sugar mix does not necessarily look hot or dangerous and smells delicious.
Put pan back on warm hob (turned off).
Optional: roll in sprinkles bowl, carefully add marshmallows.
Write name of each child on baking paper by their apple and remove tray to cool for 20 mins.
The skewers represent a further serious risk unless you have calm places to sit down and eat apples, and sufficient adult supervision throughout your club. Give the apples out in small batches so you do not have 30 kids with pointy sticks at once! When giving out finished apples mention that the skewers can hurt them, and ask the young people to sit down while eating their apples.
Fresh toffee apples are absolutely delicious. Enjoy!