Caramel Apples: Just like the Good Ole Days

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Back in the real Halloween trick or treat days, people actually used to make popcorn balls and caramel apples as treats.

Sadly, those days are mostly gone, as people nowadays find it quite a trick to find the time to make this traditional fall treat.

Having said that, it’s something I’d really like  you to consider making this fall, even if you give them away to family and friends (who, by the way, will love you for it).

There are basically two ways you can go about it, and I’m going to show you both.

#1 Buy a pound of cut caramels. Add 2 tablespoons of water and gently microwave them into a smooth, thick caramel sauce for dipping.

#2  Make this decadent caramel dipping sauce from scratch (if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic) just like the good ole days.

If you’re into #1, skip ahead. I finish MINE in a way that you’re going to find irresistible! You can check that out by going to the Extra Steps at the bottom of the article.

BUT if you like option #2, I’ll share the tricks of making truly homemade caramel apples, so you’ll have a BIG success right out of the blocks.

Let’s get right to it. Here are the ingredients:

Old Fashioned Caramel Apples

Makes about 3 cups of caramel dipping sauce or enough to coat about 8 medium or 10 small apples.

NOTE: Before you begin, be sure you have a candy thermometer that reads to at least 275 F. Most go way above that range.

1 Cup        Granulated Sugar

1 Cup        Brown Sugar

½ Cup        Light (Clear) Corn Syrup

¼ Cup        Water

1 ½ Cups    Heavy Cream

2 tsp           Pure Vanilla Extract

2 TBSP        Salted Butter

8 to 10     Apples (Your choice, but I recommend the round ones.)

Begin by washing, drying and inserting  6” wooden skewers or craft/Popsicle sticks into your apples (You can even use sturdy twigs if you wash them well first.). Then, slightly chill them all in your refrigerator or in a cool place. Avoid chilling them to the point that they sweat when you bring them out to room temperature.

Set aside a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper sprayed with vegetable spray (double non-stick insurance that really pays off!).

Place the water, corn syrup and the sugars in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir to combine the ingredients and then wash down the sides of the pan with a brush and water.

Begin cooking the caramel sauce over medium-low heat with a lid on until it comes to a good simmer.

Remove the lid and gently stir with a spoon while the mixture foams and simmers for about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and SLOWLY stir in the cream and vanilla.

Return the mixture to the burner and turn up the heat to medium. Check the thermometer every minute until it registers 250 F, and then remove from the heat.

Add the butter and stir it in slowly. You’re almost ready to dip your apples.

To get the sauce cooled to the point where it will make a nice coating on your apples, find a larger bowl than your saucepan and fill it with cold water. Place the pan into the water and gently stir the sauce until it is thicker and has a more creamy fudge-like consistency.

Dip your apples as you like, either up to the stick or by leaving a coin-sized bit of apple still showing. Let the excess caramel drip off while slowly rotating the apple, even turning it upside down, all in the attempt to evenly coat the apple from top to bottom. It generally takes 2 to 3 minutes to dip each apple well. If the sauce becomes too thick after the first few apples, simply re-heat it in the microwave oven for 15 to 20 seconds and begin again.

Place the dipped apples on your sprayed waxed paper and into the fridge only long enough to help harden the caramel shell. Afterwards, they should remain at room temperature or in a cool (but not refrigerated) place.

I love caramel, but there are two additional steps I take to make my caramel apples even more special.

Extra Step #1  Just as the caramel sets on the apples, I sprinkle the top third with salt crystals. I particularly like the Falk Salt crystals we sell at Nino’s. And if you want a really sensational taste, use the Smoked Salt crystals. WOW!

Extra Step #2  After my salted caramel apples have set and are still slightly chilled, I dip the bottom third in dark chocolate. You can use any chocolate  specifically made for coating.

There are many other toppings you can decorate your caramel apples with. Some of the most popular are chopped nuts, crushed cookies, candies, toasted coconut and, well, too many to mention. Just remember to sprinkle or roll your caramel apples in these toppings before the caramel completely sets.

Have fun and let me know how YOUR caramel apples turned out!

What apples did you use? What toppings did you try?