a tutorial

Capturing a Fall Tradition

Fall and caramel apples just go together! As the cool weather moved in, it got me in the mood to recreate this fall tradition in miniature.

I decided to share the process of this project so you could create it yourself if you wished. This makes a little vignette that is a complete story instead of just one food item. It does take some time but it doesn’t require a heavy skill level – apples are pretty much round balls with minor shaping.

I have to assume you have some basic tools for working with polymer clay – toaster oven, tiles, chalk, etc.. or this will get blogged down with getting you set up. A good resource for clear information is The Blue Bottle Tree . I found it very helpful and recommend it.

Parts of this project are polymer clay – the apples and the caramels. After these are created, the props are made – the melted caramels, the dipped apples, the open bag of caramels, and the wooden board to sit the hot pan on. This all pulls together to make a scene. Are you getting curious????….check out the details…………..

Creating the apples—-first the green ones…. below are the clay colors I used. The chunks show the approximate ratio of the mixture to get the green apple color. I am making more than the 3 needed for the project. Make as many as you want. Translucent is important to get that realistic (transparent) look instead of an opaque(flat) look to your food colors. An important thing to remember when you add translucent to the mix it will darken the color slightly after it is baked. So aim for an unbaked color a shade lighter than you think to account for that.

Clay colors and approximate ratio amounts

Roll out a “snake” a little thinner than a pencil thickness. I have an actual pea as a reference size to compare to. Figure out the length of your cut to get about that size and make the remaining cuts using the same measurement.

Shown below are three different possible tools to create the apple dimple. The rubber tipped stylus worked the best for me.

Add the stem. I used a piece of thread cover floral wire, painted brown. If you don’t have that – look for small plant stem from outside plants. Keep in mind these with be more breakable.

Floral wire cut into small piece to make an apple stem

Chalk colors I used. I used a damp brush to apply the chalk to the apples and a second brush to blend it in. Start with the yellow and build from there. The starting color is the heaviest applied with lesser amount of each of the other color as you progress down the line of colors.

Use a damp brush to apply the chalk.
Ready to bake

Bake the apples at 230 F for 20 minutes. Some list a higher baking temperature but that is what I used.

When done baking but the apples are still attached to the tile, brush on a glossy water based varnish. Use a light coat only, if you make it heavy, they will have a plastic look. Set them aside for now.

Varnished apples

Now make the red apples……

Clay colors used for red apple
Mixed clay — mine is a little darker than I liked but I am using it. A lighted mix would be better for the chalks show up.
rolling out the apple shapes

Make some thin sticks. I used a coffee stir stick but the wood is coarse. I tried a scrap of basswood later and it was much better.

Embed the stick in the apples. You will need at least 3. The apples bottom out when the stick is pushed in. You will need to reshape it slightly. Make the apple a little narrower at the bottom.

Reshape the apple bottom to be more narrow than the top

Apply the chalks. Since my apple were so dark the colors and blending is not going to show up as well. However, the apples will be coated with caramel sauce so I only need one apple to have half exposed in the pan of melted caramel.

Blended and ready to bake with a few of my better ones on the left. The ones on the right will be completely covered in caramel.

Bake and set aside…….

Making the caramel candies………

Translucent, ochre and small amt of brown
You can always add more of the darker color than correct a too dark mix
the mix after add the second sliver of brown

Roll out the clay and trim off the edges. Use a thin blade to make the rows and then the columns as shown. You can add a little cornstarch to the knife if sticking and lifting the cuts.

Bake the caramels. Apply varnish afterwards.

Rewarm for a few moment to cut the clay. If you cut the clay while warm, the cuts are smoother and you do not get the white cut line in the clay.

Now all the oven cooked clay is DONE. The following parts are NEVER put in the oven. This part is using paints and getting a transparent/translucent look. Just by itself acrylic paints are opaque and will not do the job as is, so they have to be doctored to work. The two key things are the Scribbles paint and the Diamond Glaze – these are the two critical paints/mediums to get the look. Both have a dimensional element to them so color is FLOATING in the medium to get that oily look of melted caramels.

This made the perfect color and transparent look I was aiming for.

Since I am using the toaster oven, I use the top with a couple of layers of extra tiles as a buffer to increase the drying time with the warm surface. I would not put it directly on the top of the toaster oven without the tiles — too hot and possible fire hazard. If you can’t find the right mediums – experiment mixing things on palette paper and seeing what they look like dried. I tried mod podge (on the left) . It had little bubbles when dry and wasn’t a crisp color. There are some mediums to add dimension in the acrylic paint tube section that might possible work. A gloss gel (has transparency) or acrylic glass paint (has transparency) are workable possibilities. Again, try mixing to get your color and what is looks like dried before using on the apples.

Testing various combinations. Using the tile as a buffer.
An inexpensive pan and also plastic so sauce can not be cured in the oven or it would melt the pan.

The sauce has to have two difference thicknesses. One is thinner to dip and cover the apples. It has to have the drape of actual melted caramel. This is easy enough since the paint/mediums are water based. I used a pipette to add a drop or so water to some of the mixture (consistency of heavy cream) in an cap of old lip balm. This is small enough to dip the apples without using tons of paint and will be tossed afterwards. The remaining mixture on the palette paper is thicker ( similar to consistency of sour cream), this is needed to go in the pan and have the apple half covered. If it was runny the apple would sink or tilt before it sets up. That is why we need to different thicknesses.

Added a few drops of water to get it more runny to dip apples in.

Now how to get the thick sauce in the pan???……….. a plastic bag sealed with a tiny nip in one of the corners and squeeze it into the pan without a lot of mess.

Not so hard!

Now dip the apples in the runny sauce and set on parchment paper (from the real kitchen) or tracing paper to dry. Also set the best apple in the sauce pan. Both of these are then set on top of the toaster oven on the tiles. This could be get left to sit on the workbench overnight but I like a faster finishing time. If you have a spoon available, spoon a little sauce in it and sit it with the other items to cure/dry.

Set aside to cure.
A faster curing with the warm heat. I also put the dipped apples here, just not seen in this photo.

Now this is curing you can make a base board and a hot pot board. I used wood scraps and sanded the edges and rounded the corners for a nice look. I had oil paint on hand ( I wouldn’t just go buy them for this project) to create the faux striped wood look. You could just use a darker solid color board but I like the added interest. Since this is oil paints, it needed a couple hours at least drying time.

Make several so you have various sizes to play with.
Colors and medium I used.

If you didn’t want to faux color the board with oils, play with acrylics or just make it a solid color. If you have lots of scraps, just play around to get the look you want. Perhaps add a draped towel to the gathering?

Now to make the open bag of caramels. It took some time but I finely figured out a way ! The magic of double stick tape! It comes in handy times and really works to this project.

Hopefully the visual aid will get you there!

Okay, you need THE LABEL ….Below is the pdf file of the label to print and use.

Make sure all the parts are cured and then comes the fun play — assembling it together and watching it come a captured moment!

This is an inexpensive project with the proper supplies. If you have made one and figured out the kinks – make another one with your children or grandkids. They will treasure the afternoon spent together.

Of course – finish up with clean hands and head to the kitchen to make the real deal with actual apples and caramels. YUM!!!

Please note this is a project to enjoy – not to make copies to sale….