Fall is the perfect time for caramel apples. No one wants to stand over a pot of boiling sugar in the summer. I remember buying the super huge fancy ones from the department stores at Christmas time. Do they still sell those? They were crazy good, huge and cost about 20 bucks. For an apple.
Wanting fancy apples and having no cash, or fancy department store close by, I opted to make our own. Takes a little while to make, but, you just can’t beat caramel, chocolate and apple all in one bite.
First thing ya need for caramel apples is…apples! Wash and dry them, peel off the stickers and take out the stems and poke some sticks in the top. I used the same sticks I use for cake pops. Went in just fine, but I did use a meat mallet to tap them down. Be sure to get all of your apple toppings chopped up and ready to go before you get the caramel cooking.
All of the sweet goodness for the caramel goes in a pot and cooks down. Keep it going until all of the sugar is dissolved and it is smooth. Once it is all smooth, crank up the heat until it has a rolling boil. Plop the candy thermometer in and cook it until it reaches 236 degrees. I will say that the next time I cook this, I will cook it to a lower temp. I think that getting it to 200 would be fine.
I don’t have any pics from the next part. With two of us in the kitchen and a bowl of scalding hot sugar, pictures got overlooked. Once the caramel is cooked, pour it in a small, but deep bowl and let it cool down a bit. Then you can start dipping the apples. One dip was good for me. Let it set for about a minute and roll it in any nuts or candy that you want. If using chocolate, let the caramel set before drizzling it on the apple. Put the dipped apples on a sheet lined with wax paper or a silpat. I popped mine in the fridge to set up get good and cold.
For our apples, we used chopped dry roasted nuts, milk and white chocolate and chopped up butterfingers. I love the combo of chocolate and caramel on an apple—I mean, who doesn’t?!? These were pretty easy to make. It did take about an hour to get the caramel cooked, but the rest of it was quick to get done. There is something about the cooler weather that makes caramel apples a requirement. I loved making these and hope that it becomes a family tradition. Enjoy!!
Caramel Apples (recipe adapted from www.ourbestbites.com)
1 pound dark brown sugar (about 2 cups packed brown sugar)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 medium sized apples
assorted toppings for dipping (toffee bits, chopped nuts, coconut, crushed cookies or candy bars, etc.)
Optional: melted chocolate in zip-top bags
Wash and dry apples; place sticks in cores and place on a baking sheet in the fridge to chill. Prepare all toppings in bowls and have them ready to go.
To prepare caramel, combine first 8 ingredients in heavy 2 1/2-quart nonstick saucepan (about 3-4 inches deep, at least). Stir with wooden or silicone spatula over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves (no crystals are felt when caramel is rubbed between fingers), occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush or scraping with spatula, about 15 minutes.
Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil until thermometer registers 236°F, stirring constantly but slowly with clean spatula and occasionally brushing/scraping down sides of pan, about 12 minutes. Pour caramel into a bowl. Submerge thermometer bulb in caramel. Cool to 200°F, about 20 minutes. If it cools too much just heat it up a little.
While caramel cools, line 1-2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or buttered foil. Set up decorations and melted chocolates.
Holding stick, dip 1 apple into 200°F caramel, submerging all but very top of apple. Lift apple out, allowing excess caramel to drip back into bowl. Turn apple caramel side up and hold for several seconds to help set caramel around apple. If needed, gently scrape the bottom of the apple to remove excess caramel. Place coated apple on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining apples and caramel, spacing apples apart (caramel will pool a bit on foil). If caramel becomes too thick to dip into, gently heat in microwave, or add 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream and briefly whisk caramel in bowl over low heat to thin.
By the time you have dipped all the apples, the first ones should be ready partially set enough to add toppings. If not, chill in fridge for a few minutes. Lift 1 apple from foil. Using hand, press pooled caramel around apple. Then firmly press decorations into the caramel and return to baking sheet.
If desired dip caramel-coated apples into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off, then roll in nuts or candy. Or drizzle melted chocolate over caramel-coated apples and sprinkle with decorations. Chill until decorations are set, about 1 hour. Cover; chill up to 1 week or wrap in cellophane bags for gift giving.