Caramelising apples is a treat invented by the French and is much easier than people think. What many aspiring cooks do not realise is that caramelised apples are not candy, or caramel, apples. Instead, they are sliced apples cooked to the point that their natural fruit juices begin to caramelise, making for a tasty and popular treat.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high until you can feel the heat radiating off the surface when you hold your hand a few inches above it. Drop in 2 or 3 tbsp of butter, depending on how many apples you use, and let it melt down, swirling it around the surface of the pan in circular motions to spread the butter and prevent it from burning.
Drop the apples, sliced or cubed, into the butter. With a wooden spoon, stir them around until they are completely coated with butter. Continue to stir until the butter in the pan is no longer bubbling. Add 2 tbsp of sugar--either brown or granulated-- and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Stir with a wooden spoon again. Emeril Lagasse, of Food Network fame, suggests adding 1/2 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, though packaged spicing in the same quantity will work fine. Cook apples for approximately 10 minutes, or until the fruit begins to soften and brown slightly.
Remove the pan from the heat. Using your wooden spoon, remove the apples from the pan and place them into a bowl. Try to keep as much of the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter in the pan as possible.
Turn the heat up to high beneath the skillet and add 1/3 cup of apple cider or juice. Using your spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to lift off any caramelised pieces and browned sugar. Let the juice boil down for about 3 minutes and thicken, creating a rich caramelised sauce for the apples. If you are using apple brandy instead of juice, add just 3 tbsp of brandy and carefully flambe. Once the flames subside, pour it over apples.
Try to use cooking apples, such as Granny Smiths or Braeburn. If you want a thicker sauce, add 1 tbsp of cornstarch to 3 tbsp.of apple juice or cider and mix. After the sauce has boiled down for 3 minutes, add cornstarch mixture and stir and the sauce will begin to thicken.
If you choose to flambe, always use caution and have a fire extinguisher in the vicinity.