Happy Halloween, everyone! Today, I want to share with you how to make your very own caramel apples and what lessons I learned along the way about making them.
What you’ll need:
- Fresh, tart apples, any size
- Caramel, either store-bought caramel chews (soft) or homemade “soft ball” or “firm ball” caramel
- Sticks, if you want “pops”
- Cookie sheets and a non-stick surface (love my Silpats!!)
- Fridge space
- Bittersweet chocolate chips for drizzle (is it really optional?)
- Crushed nuts for garshish (I didn’t do this because there is enough fat in the caramel already)
- Spooky sprinkles
First thing’s first: you have to pick your apples. I went with tart Granny Smith apples because they contrast the super-sweet caramel. But I think any tart, firm apple will do. Just be sure to check their skins. If there is a waxy coating, the caramel will roll off the apple slice.
Next, you have to make your caramel! You can use store-bought soft caramels and melt them in the microwave, but it’s so easy to make your own caramel that you might as well! You’ll want to make it exactly as described in a previous post on caramel chews. I made my caramel to a firm ball stage, which allows the caramel to be very firm for refrigerating storage and softens up for your guests as they warm back up to room temp. You can get at least 2.5 dozen apple slices out of my recipe. (I did 14 slices on sticks when I first made the caramel. Then I let the remainder cool in a glass tuperware, re-melted it in the microwave and made an additional 16 slices.)
1. Prepare your workspace by setting up:
- cookie sheets with a non-stick surface
- room in your fridge for the cookie sheets to allow the caramel apples to set.
- arrange any condiments, like melted chocolate or sprinkles, nearby for easy decorating.
2. Cut apple slices to whatever size you want. I did quarter slices for small apples and 1/8 slices for large apples. If using sticks, insert into apple. Dry apple immediately before dipping by dabbing with a paper towel.
3. Dip in caramel and let excess caramel drip off the apple slice. Repeat until you have a full cookie sheet of apples.
4. Decorate by drizzling with chocolate and adding Halloween-themed sprinkles!
5. Put the cookie sheet in the fridge to set the caramel. Once you’re ready to consume, take the apples out of the fridge and let them warm up to room temperature until the caramel has re-softened.
Now for some tips I can give you from my 3 trials of dipping apples.
- Keep the caramel warm and flowing. If it starts to seize up, the excess caramel will not drip off, making the proportion of apple:caramel really off. You can keep the caramel warm by having it on a low heat burner or by microwaving for 20 seconds if you’re using a microwave safe bowl.
- Your apple slices need to be as dry as possible. Moisture from the apple flesh will cause the caramel to strip off either during dipping or cooling. Nothing is more frustrating than dipping your apples in the caramel only for all the caramel to fall off as you lift it up. So after washing your apples dry them thoroughly, and dab the flesh of the apple with a paper towel immediately before dipping.
- Caramel-apple ooze. Because you suddenly have a very high concentration of fat and sugar on the surface of the apple slices, those surface cells are now experiencing osmotic shock. Water will rush out of the cells trying to compensate for the difference in concentration of sugar. This water mixes with some of the caramel and creates a caramel-apple “ooze” sauce. This causes a problem mostly with storage. But you can slow this process significantly by storing the caramel apple slices in the fridge. And to stop the ooze from getting everywhere, wrap each apple slice in plastic wrap or wax paper.
- Unless the caramel is super-hot, sprinkles will not stick. That’s why I busted out the chocolate for drizzle. It also acted as a perfect glue for the sprinkles!
I am now fairly certain that caramel apple dipping is a skill that becomes refined with more experience. I’m pretty sure I am done making caramel apples for the season, but if you have any additional tips, please leave them in the comments!
Happy Halloween! And, as always, enjoy!