This past weekend one of my best friends from college came to visit and we enjoyed a full day of Fall activities. The day started with a nearby apple festival followed by an afternoon of apple picking and culminated with a small caramel apple decorating party. I had surprisingly never made my own caramel apples before and I had no idea that it would be a very involved and lengthy process. We still had so much fun, but I learned a lot along the way and thought I would share a few tips.
1. I had a lot of issues with my caramel burning, but I later learned that it is best not to use a stainless steel pot when making caramel. The stainless steel causes caramel to burn a lot more easily.
2. The apples must be washed and dried thoroughly or the caramel will not stick to them.
3. Once I took the caramel off the stove to dip the apples it thickened fairly quickly. If this happens, it is best to put the caramel in a glass bowl set over a pot with boiling water. If you stir in a little half and half while the caramel is heating it will loosen the caramel and make it easier to work with again. Alternatively, you can also warm the caramel in the microwave briefly to loosen it up.
4. When dipping the apples, turn them very slowly or air bubbles will form on the apples.
5. After dipping the apples, set them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or a silpat (a non-stick mat found at most specialty kitchen stores).
6. I recommend storing the finished apples at room temperature or the caramel will harden and make it difficult to eat.
Besides the minor set backs, the decorating process was a lot of fun! This would be a great idea for a kids party (as long as you don’t mind the mess) or really any age! You can fill bowls with a wide assortment of toppings like chopped nuts, candies, coconut, crushed cookies etc. There are infinite possibilities and it is great to see what everyone comes up with. I also melted white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate and filled squeeze bottles for decorating on top of the caramel. If you do this, keep the squeeze bottles in warm water until you are ready to use them so that the chocolate doesn’t harden.
Below is the recipe that I used, but you can also buy caramels in the baking aisle of most grocery stores and melt them according to the directions on the package.
Yield: makes enough for 10-12 apples
1/2 cup butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
10-12 medium apples, washed and dried
10-12 popsicle or lollipop sticks (you can also cut chopsticks in half like I did)
Before making the caramel, wash and dry the apples. Remove the stems and insert the sticks so your apples are ready to use when the caramel is ready.
In a large saucepan (not stainless steel) melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Stir frequently over medium to low heat until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in the milk. Continue to stir frequently and heat over medium heat until mixture reaches 248 degrees F on a candy thermometer (this may take anywhere from 40-60 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Dip each apple into the caramel, decorate and enjoy!