I can say that caramel apples are on my top three favorite snack list. It's a guilty pleasure that I must indulge in come Fall. I mean we wait months for our seasonal favorites to come around again and they're usually worth the wait. And don't think for just one second that these should only be enjoyed during fall since they make wonderful gifts. I mention my Grandmother occasionally since we share a love for food and experience. Imagine my dismay when she said "I think candy apples are a waste of a good apple". I SAID "WHAAAAAAT". The disrespect to the caramel, the nuts, the chocolates, the candy.
I recently purchased my first caramel apple of the year from a Dutch Country market. I was reminded yet again at just how amazing these are. The magic was in their caramel which was obviously cooked from scratch. Caramels may seem difficult to make, but they're actually very easy and all you need is a watchful eye. From my experience the richest caramels include sweetened condensed milk and take at least 30 minutes to reduce. You do have to baby your sauce to keep it from scorching or boiling over.
In this recipe I'm going to give you a wonderful caramel recipe. Its' flavor, smooth application, and hold to the apple makes it my g0-to. The most important thing you can do to your apples is to soak them in hot water for about 15 seconds to melt the outer layer of wax. Make sure to completely hand dry the apples after doing so and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.
Allow me to take you on this ride.
Gourmet Caramel Apples
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 can (7 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 stick butter (unsalted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
Shortening or nonstick spray
Toppings: chopped peanuts, Reese's, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc.
Hot water, wooden dowels (or sticks) towel
Section 2: Directions
Directions should always be short and to the point.
Add all of the caramel sauce ingredients into a sauce pot and cook on medium low heat. Check the sauce often and make sure to stir constantly to avoid the sauce from burning and sticking. Using a candy thermometer, cook the sauce until it reaches a temperature of 235 degrees OR just cook the sauce for about 30 minutes until it's thick and creamy.
While the caramel sauce is cooking, this is a great time to remove the stem of the apples and add your sticks. I used wooden cake dowels that I cut in half. You can also use Popsicle sticks, actual sticks (this looks beautiful and rustic) or perhaps a long lollipop stick.
Place your apple one by one in the hot water and allow to sit for about 10-15 seconds to melt the outside wax. Using a clean towel, gently rub away that wax. You'll know the wax is gone because the apple won't be as shiny. Without this step, the caramel might slide off.
Grab a plate or counter space and lay down some waxed or parchment paper. Apply about a tablespoon of shortening to the waxed paper or a good amount of nonstick spray to prevent the apples from sticking.
This is the best part. Now that your caramel sauce is ready, remove it from the stove and place with the rest of your setup. Carefully dip an apple (holding it by the stick) into the caramel sauce and roll the apple to coat the entire surface. Hold the apple over the sauce, allowing some to drip away. Immediately dip the apple into the toppings of your choice and place on the parchment paper. Be aware that the caramel sauce will start to stiffen up. Get it back to it's consistency by placing it back on the stove for a couple of minutes while stirring, then continue.
Drizzle your caramel apples with white chocolate, dark chocolate or colorful candy melts. For a Christmas theme, try drizzling red and/or green candy melts onto the apples. The caramel will stiffen pretty quickly, so if using sprinkle candies apply them with haste or sprinkle into a bowl to dip the apple into.
Allow the apples to sit in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to ensure that the caramels holds onto those toppings.