Almost exactly 2 years ago, I posted a recipe I created in order to use up extra hard cider, and to satisfy my love of bread. I would still recommend you try that recipe, since it remains one of my favorites. But I have now updated it with a sweeter variation, fitting of the candy-centric Halloween holiday.
I once again worked with the wonderful Marie Teckmyer of Happy Hour Collection to bring you a collaborative food and cocktail pairing. We wanted to do something to combine the ideas of candy, apples, and a fun, darker element that would really work well for any Halloween parties you may be hosting, as well as for the fall season in general. Both of our recipes begin with the same homemade caramel sauce.
To make it, you just need:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
This recipe couldn’t be much easier. The key is just to not walk away from the pan. Oh, and to use a light-colored pan so that you can see the color changes in the caramel. Just combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in the pan over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan a bit to make sure all of the sugar is at least wet. As the mixture heats, you can continue to swirl the pan to make sure it heats evenly, but do NOT stir. Not even a little. Otherwise the sugar will crystallize and your caramel will be grainy. The corn syrup will help keep the caramel smooth too.
The sugar will eventually thicken and bubble, presumably like a good ol’ “toil and trouble” cauldron. It will start to turn golden, and from there should darken fairly quickly. As soon as it reaches a dark amber color, remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream. Yes, you can whisk now, since the additional fat will prevent crystallization. If the cream goes in cold, it may seize for a second, but never fear, just keep whisking it and it will all melt back together into one cohesive, glorious caramel.
Add the butter and continue whisking until it is melted and incorporated. Make sure to let it cool a little before tasting, since it will still burn you, but don’t let it cool all the way in the pan, or it will be a pain to get out. I store mine in spare jars in my fridge, and just microwave them for a few seconds to soften the caramel back to a pourable state whenever I need it.
This recipe makes enough to make a loaf of the cider bread, as well as a couple of the Smoked Caramel Apple Buttered Rum cocktails Marie is making.
Now, for this bread. For anyone who didn’t see the original recipe, it used sage as a compliment to apple in a cidery take on a beer bread. That one is a little sweet but works best as a savory bread. I use it mostly for breakfast or as a companion to fall soups. This variation swaps out the sage for Bar Keep apple bitters, which you can get from Happy Hour Collection online, or at the store in downtown Cleveland. This change gives the bread a stronger apple flavor. The other big change is that the top of the bread is now covered in a layer of that homemade caramel sauce, which is hopefully already cooling in your kitchen. To make it,
You will need:
- 3 cups sifted flour
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp Bar Keep apple bitters
- 1/2 cup diced peeled green apple
- 3 Tbsp melted butter
- 12 oz hard cider
- 1/4 cup caramel sauce
Preheat your oven to 375 and grease a loaf pan. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. (Sidebar: If you don’t want to sift the flour, as I sometimes don’t, just make sure you measure it out by spooning it into a measuring cup. Scooping directly from the bag with a measuring cup will compress the flour, giving you an excess. So just slowly add spoonfuls to the measuring cup while thinking light thoughts.)
Peel and finely dice the green apple. It’s usually roughly half an apple, just to give you an idea. Add the diced apple, bitters, and ,melted butter to the bowl before pouring in a bottle of hard cider. Stir until just combined. Over-mixing will result in a dense bread, and not in a good way. The dough/batter should be thick, so just spread it into the loaf pan enough to cover it evenly. The top won’t be smooth like a cake or anything.
As far as the caramel top, you have a couple options. You can pour it on top of your bread now, which will give you a harder, crunchier caramel top. I’d recommend this if you need to transport the bread, or if you’re someone who can’t stand stickiness. If you would prefer a gooier caramel top, add an extra tablespoon of melted butter over the top of your bread so that it gets crispy without drying, then remove from the oven with about 10 minutes remaining. Quickly pour the caramel over the top, then return it to the over for the last 10.
In either case, if your loaf pan looks dangerously full with the caramel, make sure to throw a spare baking sheet underneath it in the oven. You don’t want to spend your Halloween cleaning caramel off your oven floor.
Also in either case, your bread will cook for a total of around 50 minutes. Allow it to cool slightly afterward before running a knife along the sides to make sure the caramel doesn’t stick. You can remove it from the pan as soon as it is cool enough to touch. The caramel will of course set a little more once it is completely cooled.
All the best cooks know the importance of drinking in the kitchen. Over on Marie’s blog you can find the recipe for these awesome caramel apple hot buttered rums, which I highly recommend you drink while making this bread, or while trying to get all warm and cozy as the temperatures drop outside this fall.
They would also make for GREAT Halloween or Fall party drinks. Marie and I decided to garnish the drinks with a smoking oak leaf, which would definitely make you look like the coolest and most sophisticated of your friends when you served them. They have the added benefit of infusing the drink and the room with the warm, nostalgic smell of burning leaves. Speaking of the leaves, just LOOK at how perfectly that vintage glass works for this drink! You can pick up those or a bunch of other cool vintage glasses at Happy Hour Collection too. Just a hint.
But anyway, I can’t recommend this drink enough. I love hot buttered rum as it is, but adding the apple makes it perfect for the season, and the caramel along with the butter makes it perfectly rich and smooth. And I gotta admit, I’ve had a couple of these just since we developed the recipe, and even when it’s just me at home, I insist on adding the smoking leaf. It’s just not the same without it!
If you make the bread or the cocktail, Marie and I would love to see it! Tag me on Instagram @nhubble and Marie @happyhourcle with your creations. And if you were interested in winning our eternal love, you could follow our pages while you’re there. But I’m definitely not pressuring you at all. Happy Halloween!