Candy making is more difficult than both cooking and baking, and being a good chef or baker doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have success as a candymaker. Sugar is finicky, and recipes can go wrong with nothing more than a change in air temperature or humidity levels. This is why, even though I love to indulge in a caramel apple on occasion, I would usually rather buy them from a store that specializes in them or use (good quality, of course) store-bought caramels that have been melted down as my dip. Both options are quick and reliable. That said, if you are armed with a candy thermometer and can keep your sense of humor intact even if things happen to go awry, it can be fun (and not too difficult) to make your own caramel apples at home.
I wanted to get a little extra flavor into my caramel and so chose a recipe for maple caramel apples as my jumping-off point. I substituted some corn syrup for some of the maple syrup because I’ve had some problems with maple syrup causing caramels and candies to recrystallize and become a bit brittle (like pralines). I also added in a good amount of kosher salt to take the edge off the sweetness. I dipped my apples while the caramel was still quite hot for a relatively thin coating, which stayed on my apples better than the thicker caramel did. Be sure to scrub your apples well to remove any wax coating that might cause the caramel to not stick to the apples.
Once the apples are dipped, you’ll need to put them on a silpat or a piece of parchment paper to set up. Wax paper will work, but the waxy coating might come off on the caramel. If you dip your apples while the caramel is relatively thin, there won’t be too much spread at the bottom of the apple. If you prefer to go for a thick layer of caramel, set up your parchment in the fridge so you can quickly cool down the caramel dipped apples and prevent too much from pooling at the base of each one.
Since I added salt to the caramel, I really enjoyed eating these plain. An extra sprinkle of coarse salt on top is a nice finishing touch, but you can drizzle your apples with melted dark, milk or white chocolate when the caramel has set to take them over-the-top.
Salted Maple Caramel Apples
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup light cornsyrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
6 medium sweet-tart apples, chilled
6 chopsticks or popsicle sticks
Skewer each apple with a chopstick or popsicle stick. Set aside.
Line a flat tray or cutting board with parchment paper or a slipat.
In a medium saucepan combine the sugars, maple syrup, corn syrup and cream. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved.
Bring the mixture to a boil and cook without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 250 degrees F (firmball). Remove the pan from the heat and transfer caramel to a heat resistant glass or metal bowl. Whisk in butter and salt until fully incorporated, then let the caramel cool for a minute or two until it is slightly thickened before dipping your apples.
Dip each apple quickly, letting some of the excess drip off, and place on prepared parchment paper.
Let set until caramel is firm before serving or decorating with chocolate drizzle. Top with an extra sprinkle of coarse salt, if desired.
Makes 6 apples