October is upon us and Halloween is just around the corner! This time of year always makes me think of homemade caramel dipped apples. Not only are they tasty, they’re so fun to make. Get your creative juices flowing with endless decorative options: candy, crushed cookies, sprinkles, marshmallow, chopped nuts, chocolate or white chocolate (use candy food coloring and make it any color your heart desires)! You can make classy apples, or spook them up for Halloween.
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A quick rundown – making homemade caramel dipped apples from scratch:
Keep scrolling down to find more detailed instructions for this recipe. First, I’ll start with a quick overview:
- Wash apples and remove wax from skin.
- Remove stems from apples and skewer each one with a dipping stick.
- Add all of your caramel ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Allow the ingredients to simmer together for about 20 minutes.
- Once a candy thermometer reads 240°F (or soft ball stage) remove the sauce pan from the burner and allow caramel to cool.
- Dip apples in caramel and decorate!
In the past, the thought of making homemade caramel intimidated me, but it’s actually really easy. Don’t be afraid to give it a whirl! In my opinion, it’s much more enjoyable than un-wrapping hundreds of individual candies. Here are some tips to help you make mouthwatering caramel!
- Many caramel apple recipes and how to guides suggest scuffing up the skin of your apples with sand paper to remove wax coating, helping caramel to stick once the apple is dipped. I don’t really like this method so I typically heat up a sauce pan full of water and dip each apple for 2-3 seconds to soften the wax. Then I use a clean towel to remove the wax and dry the apple off.
- I highly recommend getting a candy thermometer for this recipe. You can buy one online, but they are typically available at your local grocery store in the kitchenware isle. They’re generally very affordable and take the guess work out of making perfect caramel. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have access to a thermometer you can try using the drop test/cold water method.
- A pastry brush will come in handy when making homemade caramel. They are also very affordable and usually available in the kitchenware isle at the grocery store. It’s important to wash down the sides of your sauce pan when you see bits of caramel splash. Splashed caramel can crystalize and cause the whole batch of caramel to become grainy. When you see a splash, wash it down with water using your pastry brush.
- I recommend using a wooden spoon or a high quality, heat resistant rubber spatula when making homemade caramel sauce. You’ll stir the liquid constantly while it is coming to temperature, so you don’t want to use anything that will get too hot.
- If you’re looking for fun, seasonal decorations for your caramel dipped apples at the grocery store and you don’t find the variety you fancy, pop over to the nearest craft store! Typically craft stores have lots of fun seasonal items in their kitchen/baking section.
- If you want to color white chocolate, be aware that food coloring can make chocolate thicken or seize. Be sure to get candy food coloring rather than basic food coloring. Candy coloring will be oil or powder based, whereas food coloring is generally liquid or gel based. You might be able to find candy coloring at the grocery store, but it’s more likely to be at a craft store. You can also get it online! Try this one, or this one!
Homemade Caramel Dipped Apples
- 10 medium sized apples*
- 2 cups sugar
- ⅔ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup dark corn syrup*
- 2 tablespoons molasses*
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Recipe notes:Yield: this recipe will make somewhere between 8-10 dipped apples depending on apple size. Apples: when selecting apples at the grocery store, look for crisp, tart varieties. The tart apple and sweet caramel combo is heavenly! I typically purchase granny smith and pink lady apples. Dark corn syrup: if you don’t have dark corn syrup you can use 3 tablespoons of light corn syrup and add an extra tablespoon of molasses. Molasses: if you don’t have molasses you can use extra dark corn syrup.
- Place a small sauce pan ⅔ full of water on the stove and turn heat to high. While waiting for water to boil, wash apples and skewer each one with a dipping stick. Once water begins to boil, reduce heat down to low. Dip each apple into the hot water for 2-3 seconds and use a clean, dry kitchen towel to remove the wax from each apple. Removing wax from the apple will help the caramel to stick once the apple is dipped. Line apples up on a large cookie sheet.
- Cut some parchment paper into 4×4 inch squares and set them to the side (cut as many squares as you have apples). You can use one large sheet of parchment paper rather than cutting squares, but I find individual cut outs helpful for decorating.
- Set out any decorations that you want to use. If you're using nuts as a decoration, get them chopped up. Once apples are dipped the caramel will begin to set pretty fast, so you'll need to decorate them quickly. However, if you let caramel set before decorating, you can also dip the apple in chocolate and then add decorations to the chocolate. So if you don't get around to decorating the caramel before it sets, never fear!
- Add all caramel ingredients to a sauce pan. The caramel will foam and bubble as it cooks so you'll want to use a fairly large sauce pan. I use a three quart pan and it's the perfect size!
- Place a candy thermometer on the side of your sauce pan. Fill a small bowl or cup with water and place your pastry brush in the water, set to the side. Turn heat to medium. Use a heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir the ingredients as they melt and begin to combine. It's important to stir gently so you don't splash ingredients onto the sides of the sauce pan. If ingredients get on the side of the pan they may begin to crystalize, this could cause the whole batch of caramel to be grainy. If ingredients do splash on the side, use your pastry brush to wash the splashed bits back down into the mixture.
- Continue to gently stir ingredients and wash any splash back down into the pan for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on your candy thermometer and once your mixture comes to 240°F, promptly remove it from the heat and continue to stir gently while the caramel cools.
- Stop stirring and allow the caramel to sit for 2-3 minutes while bubbles rise to the surface. Stir gently to remove bubbles.
- Dip apples one at a time placing them on a square of parchment paper on your cookie sheet. If you want to decorate the caramel, do so quickly before it sets. Remember, you can also dip the apples in chocolate and then decorate the chocolate with nuts or sprinkles. If you don't decorate the apple before the caramel sets, it's no problem! If caramel starts to thicken up too much for dipping, place your sauce pan back on the burner on very low heat and let it thin out a little.
- Store apples in the refrigerator in a food storage container with parchment paper between them prevent sticking. Once caramel has fully set you can cut up your apples and enjoy!
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Happy October and Happy Halloween!