Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Classic Caramel Apples

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

It is amazing to realize no matter how much time goes by, special memories remain as vivid as if it happened a day ago. Even if it is just a portion of the memory, a picture of that moment develops like a photograph creating a snapshot of time. Such is the case of my childhood Halloween memories. What I remember most about Halloween is Mom making caramel apples and popcorn balls for trick or treaters brave enough to walk up our steep and dark road. Mom was not crafty and rarely made homemade gifts or treats, but every Halloween she spent the day dipping apples in sweet caramel and forming popcorn balls like it was her mission in life.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Our house was situated on a side road up a very steep hill. The surrounding houses in the neighborhood were scattered around the hill, in valleys, and down along the bay. It was steep territory to traverse and the neighborhood kids cleared trails from house to house creating shortcuts, so we could easily walk from one friend to another with the purpose of climbing up and/or down the hill only once in our travels. Walking up to my house was a steep hike and Mom believed that anyone who was willing to walk up our hill on Halloween deserved a reward for their efforts.

On Halloween, we traveled in packs, so mom could expect at most three groups of trick-or-treaters from the neighborhood. She bestowed upon her Halloween trick-or-treaters with not one, not two, but three treats: caramel apples, popcorn balls, and hot apple cider. We could sit and eat our treasure right there in the comfort of our kitchen or continue on our costumed journey. I am not sure if we timed it so we would stop at my house midway on our travels to warm up and take a break. Often, we paused only long enough to drink our hot cider, and then went on our way seeking more candy treasure. Mom was always so happy to see everyone dressed up in their costumes, and those caramel apples never tasted so good.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Caramel Apples

Despite my vivid picture of Mom dipping apples into caramel, I have no memory of how she made them or what recipe she used. Additionally, I cannot remember ever seeing a recipe for caramel apples in her recipe file either. Chances are she got the recipes from either Joy of Cooking or Sunset Magazine, but after a couple of years making them she knew the recipe by heart.

My lack of family recipes from Mom left me to figure out how to make caramel apples on my own. I did not keep up her Halloween tradition, but I love caramel apples and want to bring them back into my life. Over the years I tried a couple of different recipes and I found two options producing delicious caramel for apples. You can choose to go all out and make your own caramel for dipping. Or, you can go the semi-homemade option and melt soft caramel candies for your caramel sauce.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Tips for making caramel apples

Making caramel apples is easy, temperamental and I learned some helpful tips the hard way from my mistakes and triumphs.

First, make sure there is no wax on the apples. The wax just creates a slippery surface on the apples and the caramel will slide right off. This is one reason why making caramel apples with freshly picked apples is ideal.

All apples bought at a grocery store are coated with wax. To remove the wax, drop apples one at a time in just boiling water for less than a minute. Make sure the apple’s entire surface area gets a good soaking from the boiling water. Be careful with the amount of time the apples spend in the hot water because you do not want to cook them.

Remove the apples from the hot water and rub them with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. You can also add apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the boiling water. The acid helps break the bonds of the wax. Before you dip each apple in the caramel, make sure the apple is dry.

Another method to remove wax from apples is to wash the apples and rub super fine sandpaper over the apples being careful not to break the skin. Rinse off and thoroughly dry the apples. (Full disclosure, I have never tried this, but I am very tempted to for the next time I make caramel apples.)

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Second, firmly secure each stick, popsicle stick, or lollipop stick inside the apple. However, do not push it all the way through the apple. The juices from the apple will leak out and weaken the caramel.

Third, chill the apples for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before you dip them in the caramel. Cold apples will set the caramel faster.

Fourth, if you do not make your own caramel, use the best quality soft caramel candy you can buy. The better the quality of the caramel, the more reliable it is for dipping. Do not use store-bought caramel sauce.

Fifth, less is more. Allow the excess caramel to drip off. Aim for a thin even layer around each apple. This will help prevent the caramel from sliding down and pooling around the base of the apple. The pooling caramel is often unavoidable. You can fix it by pressing on the caramel and pushing it back into shape over the top of the apple.

Sixth, refrigerate the caramel apples until the caramel sets. Once set, serve them or dip them in melted chocolate, then chopped nuts or candy if using. Refrigerate the chocolate dipped caramel apples until the chocolate sets and gets hard.

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

More Apple Treats

Smoky Apple Dutch Baby 

Apple Muffins with Lemon Glaze

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

If you have leftover caramel apples, slice them up and briefly sauté them in butter. Serve the sautéed caramel apple slices over vanilla ice cream, french toast, waffles, or Dutch Baby pancakes.

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Classic Caramel Apples recipe.

Classic Caramel Apples

Whenever I see caramel apples it brings me back to watching Mom make these delicious treats for all the trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Caramel apples are one of my favorite fall treats. Sweet and soft caramel, coating tart and crisp apples bring out the best flavors in both foods. A perfect marriage. For this recipe, you can either make your own caramel or use store-bought soft caramel candies to melt then dip your apples in. Buy the best quality caramel candies you can buy and make sure it is real caramel and not just corn syrup and flavorings. If you have never made caramel before, making caramel apples with store-bought soft caramel candies is more reliable. Making caramel is temperamental because in a flash your caramel can go from perfect to burnt, or the butter separates from the caramel if it has experienced some form of temperature shock. The homemade caramel sauce is from the caramel apple recipe in Tartine, by Elizabeth Prueitt. The homemade caramel sauce is from the caramel apple recipe in Tartine, by Elizabeth Prueitt. I adapted the recipe for caramel made with soft caramel candies and included some of the same flavors from Elizabeth Prueitt’s recipe. Use tart apples, like Granny Smith to complement the sweet caramel sauce. For your handle, use popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks or fresh tree twigs. If you use tree twigs, make sure to use ones that are cut off from the tree and not found on the ground. Wash and dry the twigs then make a point at one end for ease of poking them into the apples. Caution: Working with caramel is extremely hot. As a precaution keep a bowl filled with ice water at close range in the event you burn yourself from the steam or caramel.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apples, Caramel apples
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chilling time 1 hour
Total Time 30 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Caramel Apples

  • 8-10 medium tart apples like Granny Smith
  • 8-10 handles like lollipop sticks popsicle sticks or clean tree sticks
  • 1 recipe of caramel sauce
  • 8 oz (200 g) pistahios, or other nuts like walnuts or pecans, chopped fine (optional)

Caramel Sauce from Tartine

  • 1 cup (225 g) sugar
  • ½ cup (133 g) unsalted butter (one stick)
  • 2/3 cup (150 ml) heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (60 ml or 85 g) light corn syrup
  • 2 TB (30 ml) maple syrup
  • 1 TB (15 ml) Blackstrap or dark molasses
  • ¼ tsp (1 ml) real vanilla extract
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Caramel Sauce Using Store-bought soft Caramel Candies

  • 1 lb. (500 g) 500 g soft real caramel candies
  • 3 TB (45 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 TB (15 ml) real maple syrup
  • 1 TB (15 ml) dark molasses

Instructions

Prepare your apples

  1. Wash and dry the apples. Remove the wax from the apples before you start. See the Caramel Apple blog post for wax removal instructions.

  2. Secure the handle into the apples. Pierce one stick into the stem end of each apple. Do not push the stick all the way through the apple because the juices will leak and weaken the caramel. 

  3. Place the prepared apples on a tray and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. If using parchment paper, lightly spray it with cooking oil. Set aside.

Make the caramel sauce

Tartine caramel sauce

  1. Add all the ingredients into a heavy-duty saucepan with a minimum of a 3-quart capacity. Place the pot over medium-high heat. Occasionally stir the ingredients to prevent the sugar from burning on the bottom of the pan. Bring the caramel to a boil and cook the caramel until it reaches 236°F (113°C), about 7 minutes.

  2. Remove the pan from the heat and rest the caramel until it cools down to 180°F (82°C).

    Continue to Make the Caramel Apples.

Caramel Sauce Made from Soft Caramel Candies

  1. Add water to the bottom portion of a double boiler filling the saucepan until it reaches shy of 2-inches up the side of the pot. Place the top portion of the double boiler on top then add all the ingredients to the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and melt the caramel. Occasionally stir the ingredients to incorporate the ingredients and promote even melting. Once the caramel is melted, turn down the heat to low and begin making the caramel apples. 

Make the Caramel Apples

  1. Remove the chilled apples from the refrigerator and bring near your saucepan with the caramel sauce. Position the prepared rimmed sheet pan at the opposite side of the caramel sauce.

  2. One at a time, dip an apple into the caramel, turning it over to get an even coating of caramel. Lift the apple out of the caramel and let the caramel drip back into the pot. Turn the apple around to encourage the caramel to evenly drip off and not collect over one spot. Turn the apple right side up and hold it upright for 30 seconds.

  3. If you are dipping your apple into chopped nuts or candies, turn the apple upside down and dip the apple into the bowl filled with nuts or candy.
  4. Place the finished apple on the prepared sheet pan. Once you are done with all the apples. Place the sheet pan in the refrigerator and chill the apples until the caramel firms up.
  5. Once set, serve immediately. Store the caramel apples uncovered in the refrigerator for up to three days. 

Recipe Notes

After you dipped all your apples and notice caramel pooling at the base of the apples, you can press the caramel back into place with your fingers.

Many different types of nuts and candies taste great with caramel apples. Sprinkles, Heath Bar Crunch, Chocolate Chips, and or any nut will easily stick to the caramel if chopped in small size pieces. 

Classic Caramel Apples recipe. Recipe for caramel apples, a classic fall and Halloween treat. In this recipe there are two methods available to make the caramel for the apples. One is homemade and one is semi-homemade using soft caramel candies.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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