Caramel Apples, Because We're All Kids
This weekend, let’s take a break from all things grown-up. Forget about being sugar-free and dairy-free and whatever else we are supposed to be doing. It’s Halloween! If not now, then when?
As much as you might be jumping straight to a mental picture of endless Reese’s and Sweet Tarts and maybe some Butterfingers (we’ll save that for next Wednesday), I’ve got something way better. Caramel apples.
I know what you’re thinking, but don’t go there. Don’t picture those rubbery sheets of sugar that we used to wrap around apples like Fruit Roll-Ups. These are not carnival caramel apples. This is good caramel on top of good apples – super creamy on top of super crisp. These are the ones that my children ate even when they had braces, because they are that good. And once a year, I looked the other way. We could deal with a broken bracket.
Not to mention, these are really fun to make. “It’s a family event!” was the first thing one of my daughters said when I asked what she had to say about caramel apples. I don’t think there’s been a Halloween when we haven’t made them – we’ve had friends and grandmothers over to help every year, and it’s always a happy afternoon. I did ban those tiny, glittery sprinkles one year, but that’s another story.
Give these a go for Halloween week. They keep in the fridge for a couple of days – I used to slice them up and send two or three slices as treats in lunchboxes. Even if you’re not sure you like a caramel apple, or if you’re not that into Halloween. These are a crunchy, sweet-tart mix of fruit and caramel (and chocolate and toffee and…) that will turn even the biggest Halloween Grinch sweet.
10 – 12 large apples, any kind you like
10 – 12 craft/popsicle sticks
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1-pound box dark brown sugar
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
clip-on candy thermometer
Wash the apples in very hot water to remove the wax on the peel. Dry them, and insert a popsicle stick into the top of each apple, where the stem was. Line a sheet pan with foil, and butter it lightly or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix the butter, sugar, milk, corn syrup, vanilla and salt in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir with a wooden spatula until the sugar has dissolved, 12 – 15 minutes. Attach the clip-on candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, at a rolling boil until the thermometer registers 240 degrees, about 12 minutes.
Let the caramel cool a little bit, until the thermometer registers 200 degrees. One at a time, dip the apples into the slightly cooled caramel, holding them by the popsicle sticks. Let the excess caramel drip off into the pan, then twirl the apple on its side for a few seconds over the pan until the caramel is no longer dripping. At this point, you can leave the apples as-is and place them on the sheet pan, or you might want to roll them in toffee bits, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles or all of the above. You can also drizzle melted chocolate over the apples. Because why not?
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