When you think of fair food, what comes to mind?
“Corn dogs,” said Heather Waldrop without hesitation. The Redding resident prefers hers with ketchup, not the traditional mustard.
Tehama District Fair employee Jacque Brown said corn dogs are the most popular food at the fair.
“People love corn dogs,” she said. “They also like funnel cake and all the sugar stuff.”
The Shasta District Fair starts today in Anderson. In honor of unique fair food, we offer recipes to bring the fair into your home year-round.
Waldrop also cites sweet treats when she thinks about fair food – cotton candy and caramel apples.
While some people might wait until fair time to indulge in these treats, Victoria Rodriguez of Redding makes these foods at home. She made corn dogs for her boys when they were young and whips up batches of caramel apples for family and friends during the holidays and for other special occasions.
Rodriguez said she once asked a carnival worker for his corn dog recipe.
“It’s the easiest recipe,” she said. “Their secret was pancake batter.”
Carnival workers would mix up big batches of Krusteaz pancake batter and then dip the hot dogs into the batter and fry them.
Rodriguez duplicated the recipe for her sons. “You just make the batter according to the package instructions and then dip a hot dog into it. Sometimes it took two coats,” she said.
She then fried the corn dogs in hot oil.
“They looked pretty authentic,” she said. “And the boys loved them.”
She also made corn dogs for their Boy Scout troop with an equally enthusiastic response.
While corn dogs are now rarely on the menu since the boys left home, caramel apples remain in demand.
“Everybody wants one,” Rodriquez said.
She and her friend, Michelle Porter, spend a day shopping, making, decorating and wrapping the festive gifts. While they are favorite holiday treats, Rodriguez said that they also make great hostess or thank you gifts.
Rodriguez and Porter start with the best apples they can find. They prefer to work with Granny Smith apples for their tart, crisp taste. They look for apples that are blemish-free and well-rounded.
Rodriguez’ husband, Cisco, gets into the act by sharpening wooden dowels purchased at Michael’s to insert into the apples. Popsicle sticks work well, but Rodriguez prefers the look and sturdiness of dowels.
Because they make so many apples at a time (40 last Christmas), the women buy caramel in 5-pound slabs.
Rodriguez said the individually wrapped caramels can also be used, but cautions that it takes a long time to unwrap the candy.
The women melt the candy in the microwave, being careful not to scorch it. While the candy is melting, sliced almonds are placed on cookie sheets. Once the apples are dipped into the melted caramel, they are immediately pressed into the almonds and then placed on parchment paper to set.
“You can stop with the caramel and have a traditional caramel apple that you would find at the fair, or you can keep going and get very creative,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is an interior designer and faux painter by profession, so she enjoys the creative side of making the caramel apples.
After the apples have set (about 20 minutes), Rodriguez and Porter use melted white and milk chocolate to drizzle over the apples. They melt the chocolate in double boilers, then pour the chocolate into plastic squeeze bottles for the drizzling step.
The apples are then wrapped in cellophane and tied with a giant bow. Smaller apples are good for children, while large apples make a great gift for a family – simply slice and share.
When it comes to caramel apples, Rodriguez said they can be as simple or as fancy as desired. Other great toppings include crushed Oreo cookies, toffee or M&Ms.
A fan of kettle corn, Rodriguez uses a recipe for home. She places 1/2 cup popcorn, 2 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt into a Whirley Pop (a type of popcorn maker) on the stove.
Rodriguez, who also works at That Kitchen Place in Redding, said the popcorn maker is sold at that location. The popcorn is hand-cranked over medium heat.
“In about six minutes, you have hot kettle corn,” Rodriguez said. She could wait for the fair to have it, but she enjoys it every Sunday evening while she and her husband watch a movie.
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted shortening
1 pound frankfurters
Mix cornmeal with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg and milk; blend in melted shortening. Mix well. Skewer frankfurters and dip in batter. Stand skewer-side up and fry in deep-fat fryer at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 2 or 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
Makes 8 servings.
This recipe supplied by Victoria Rodriguez of Redding makes 20 caramel apples. It is easy to adjust to make the number of apples desired. For example, use 1 pound caramel for 4 apples.
20 Granny Smith apples (or your favorite type)
20 wooden dowels or Popsicle sticks
5 pounds caramel (in bulk or individually wrapped candies)
3 bags sliced almonds
Wash and dry the apples. Insert a dowel or Popsicle stick into each apple. Melt the caramel in an 8-cup glass bowl in the microwave in 30-second intervals. Check the caramel at each interval to prevent scorching. When the caramel is melted, insert the apples, one at a time. Twist the apple to remove excess caramel. Immediately dip into sliced almonds and place on parchment paper to set. They can be cooled in the refrigerator or in a cool area.
RED CANDY APPLES
8 to 10 small to medium apples, washed and dried
Wooden skewers or Popsicle sticks
1 cup water
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/4 cup red hot candies
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
Insert wooden skewers into the stem end of each apple.
In a large (at least 2 quarts) aluminum heavy pot, stir the candy syrup mixture together until sugar dissolves. On medium heat, bring mixture to boiling without stirring. Do not stir and let boil until mixture reads 290 degree to 300 degrees on a candy thermometer (or when a drop makes hard threads in cold water). This takes about 20 minutes, depending on type of pan and amount of heat.
Remove pan from heat and immediately tilt pan and swirl each apple quickly to coat. Allow a second for excess to drip, then set apples on a greased cookie sheet to cool and harden. If syrup in pot thickens too fast, return pot to low heat, then continue.
Let apples cool at least 1 hour before serving. Wrap each apple in a square of clear plastic wrap to keep moist air from making them sticky. (Don’t use waxed paper.)
Caution: Do not ever double the recipe; it works best when made in single batches.
1 cup water
3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1 cup eggs, about 4 large eggs and 2 whites
Vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for topping
Boil water, butter, sugar and salt together in a saucepan. Add flour and work it in until it is all incorporated and dough forms a ball. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes.
With mixer at lowest speed, add eggs, one at a time, making sure the first egg is completely incorporated before continuing. Once all eggs have been added and mixture is smooth, put dough in a piping bag fitted with a number 12 tip.
Heat about 1 1/2 inches of oil in a heavy pan. Pipe dough into oil, making a free-form lattice pattern; cook until browned, flipping once. Remove cake from oil, drain on paper towels and top with powdered sugar. Continue until all batter is used.