Once upon a time, there were candy apples. Invented around the turn of the 19th century with Christmas shoppers in mind, they feature a bright red hard sugar shell, traditionally flavored with cinnamon.
That original sugar-coated apple was overshadowed in the 1950s when Kraft Foods developed a way to use leftover caramel candy from Halloween. Caramel apples ... you'll know them by the - well, the caramel - in all its sticky, gooey deliciousness.
Since the first caramel-dipped apple came on the scene, people have been getting creative with them, dressing them up with coconut, nuts and bright candy pieces. The varieties are limited only by the candy maker's imagination. Is your mouth watering yet? Here are just a few Show-Me State places turning healthy fruit into yummy kind-of-healthy sweet indulgences:
Springfield: Bon Bon's Candy House - a seasonal specialty, available September-October only, in part to make them more special and in part to give them time to gear up for Christmas. Bon Bon's custom-makes its apples starting with caramel (with a hint of almond to it for a warm vanilla/almond flavor and made from scratch in a copper kettle), and then hand dipping them. Their best seller is a sea salt apple (caramel, chocolate and sea salt), but the deluxe, with caramel and pecans and drizzled with chocolate, is very popular.
Columbia: The Candy Factory -a signature fall item, with a season that runs from the end of August through Halloween. When available, choose a traditional caramel apple, perhaps with pecans on the bottom or try one dressed up with candy pieces or cashews and drizzled with chocolate. The Candy Factory makes its own caramel from scratch in an old-fashioned copper kettle, and you can watch from the viewing room. Caramel apple season ends with October to make room for popcorn season, using that same mouth-watering homemade caramel (among other things).
St. Louis (three locations): Merb's Candies - home of the Bionic Apple, named in honor of The Bionic Woman TV show (which was on the air when they first came out with this treat) and because the apples often weigh more than a pound. Their caramel is made from scratch and they use Georgia pecans. But you better get your order in right now: Bionic Apples are only available from Labor Day through Thanksgiving.
Farmington: Sweetheart Chocolates - definitely NOT your grandmother's caramel apple. These things are HUGE (up to 1.3 pounds) and are handmade every week, year-round for the last seven years. Sweetheart's specialty is a turtle apple (just what it sounds like) but they also create holiday-themed apples, like the Franken apple, Jack Skellington, Rudolph and many more. Be sure to check out the by-order giant snowman apple in white chocolate a with big marshmallow "head."
Kansas City: Chip's Chocolate Factory - specializing in Gourmet Caramel Apples. Available year-round, Chip's offers the standard caramel apple, but they also dress them up with peanuts and pecans, crushed Oreo cookies, toffee, Butterfinger pieces, even gummy worms. There's even an apple pie caramel apple with sugar and cinnamon. The sky's the limit: any ingredients in the shop can go on their caramel apples.