I really should have put a toothpick in that bowl with a flag on it explaining what it was because now and then when I’d stop by the table and drag a wedge of peach or a few blueberries skewered on a toothpick through it, someone would look at me, horrified, and say something like, “Blueberries with hummus? Really?” No, not really, but in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised that people didn’t immediately recognize it, even if the plates of fruit surrounding it were meant to be a clue.
“Taffy apple dip” (aka “caramel apple dip”) is usually just a combination of softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla. The first time I had it was at a pumpkin carving party last autumn. My friend Sara brought it, and said it was something her mother had made every autumn for years. As soon as I tasted it, I understood why. The molasses in the brown sugar has many of the same flavor compounds as caramelized sugar, and combined with the vanilla and buttery cream cheese, it evokes toffee or milk caramels. It’s the perfect accompaniment for crisp, tart apples, and so much simpler to make and eat than a whole apple on a stick dipped in caramel.
I knew I wanted to serve fruit at the party, but somehow just cutting up fruit didn’t seem festive enough. Since it’s not quite apple season—although I did find some honeycrisps at the farmer’s market—and the real stars of the late summer in Michigan are peaches and blueberries, I thought I needed to tweak it a little bit. I just wasn’t sure softer fruits would hold up to the original recipe. So I decided to combine it with some whipped cream. And just to be sure the cream wouldn’t start to melt or weep, I stabilized it with some cornstarch and powdered sugar, following Rose Levy Beranbaum’s instructions in The Cake Bible.
The resulting dip was exactly what I was looking for— rich, but light, like a caramelly cream cheese cloud. It was sort of reminiscent of marshmallow fluff, but not quite as sticky and way more delicious. I think the fat in the cream cheese also helped further stabilize the cream because even after three days in the refrigerator, the leftovers stayed perfectly light and creamy and didn’t seep any whey at all. So you could totally make this 24-48 hours before serving, and you could probably even skip the stabilizing step. Also, I bet it would make an amazing cake filling or icing, especially for a spice cake.
Recipe: Taffy Apple Cream (adapted from Sara J. and Rose Levy Beranbaum)
- 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 T. vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
- 2 T. powdered sugar
- 1 t. cornstarch
- pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1. Refrigerate your mixing bowl and whisk attachment(s).
2. Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Gradually add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved and the mixture is completely smooth.
3. Cook the mixture over low heat until it simmers, and keep cooking it for 30 seconds to a minute at that temperature until it thickens to about the consistency of corn syrup.
4. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
5. Once the mixture is cool, beat the cream in the chilled bowl just until it’s just thickened enough that the tines of the beater leave distinct trails.
6. Add the cooled cornstarch mixture, beating constantly if possible or in several small additions, beating well after each addition. Continue beating just until stiff peaks form when the beaters are raised. Do not overbeat.
8. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture just until combined.