It is almost impossible to resist a good caramel apple. Not only are they stunning to look at, but the combination of slightly salty, buttery caramel with sweet-tart juicy apples is pretty close to perfect. I’ve worked on making a good caramel apple recipe for a long time. It is tempting just to use store bought caramels (good quality, of course!) because they are very convenient and melt down in just a few seconds in the microwave. It is much more satisfying – not to mention tastier – to make your own Caramel Apples from scratch.
To make the apples, start by cooking sugar, water and a small amount of corn syrup (golden syrup is a good substitute if you don’t have corn syrup) together in a large saucepan until it turns dark golden in color, then you stir in heavy cream, butter and salt. I usually cook the first portion of this recipe without a candy thermometer, because it is very easy to see the color of the sugar turning a deep gold. Once the cream and butter have been added, the caramel needs to cook until it reaches hard ball stage (260F) so that it will be thick enough to stick to the apples without simply running down the sides of the fruit. You will need a candy thermometer at this point to ensure that you get accurate results. The caramel making process is not difficult, it just requires a little bit of patience.
When you’re making caramel apples, you can really use almost any kind of apple that you like. Some people really like tart Granny Smith apples as a contrast to the caramel. Others prefer a sweet apple, any kind that they would normally choose for a snack. I tend to use the same types of apples that make good choices for apple pie, apples that are crisp have a bright flavor, like Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady apples. I also like the look of a red apple underneath all that caramel, so I definitely go out of my way to choose particularly good looking apples when I’m ready to make a batch of these!
Once the apples are dipped, place them on a silpat or a piece of parchment paper to set up and they will be easy to peel off once the caramel has cooled. This recipe makes enough caramel to cover 6 large apples. You can double it (be sure to use a much larger saucepan!) if you want to make more, though I would recruit an assistant to help with dipping if you’re going to make that many. They will keep well for several days, but should be kept in a cool, dry place if you’re not going to indulge right away.
Classic Caramel Apples
6 large apples
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
wood chopsticks, for skewers
Insert single chopstick vertically into each apple. Place a sheet of parchment paper or a silpad on a large, flat surface, such as a baking sheet or the countertop.
In a large saucepan, combine water, corn syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then continue to boil until caramel turns a deep honey color (10-14 minutes).
While sugar cooks, combine cream and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 1-2 minutes on high heat, until butter is melted. Set aside.
When sugar is a deep honey color, pour in cream mixture. Caramel will bubble up vigorously. Stir until bubbles subside slightly, then stir in salt. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to cook, stirring regularly with a silicone spatula, until caramel reaches 260F (5-10 minutes).
Pour caramel into a deep glass or pyrex bowl or large measuring cup. Stir regularly with a spatula for 4-5 minutes, until caramel cools slightly.
Dip the apples one by one into the caramel and swirl to coat. Allow excess caramel to drip off. Place on prepared parchment and allow to cool completely.