Weeks ago I knew I wanted to try making homemade caramel apples after I started buying these gigantic honey crisp apples from Trader Joe’s. Seeing other bloggers post their own pics of caramel apples inspired me even more. So when I was invited to a work pot luck, I knew exactly what I would bring.
Just to warn you, caramel apples are a way bigger undertaking than you might think. Especially when making homemade caramel. So if you’re preparing to make your own homemade caramel apples, set aside a few hours of your night and get prepared to roll up your sleeves.
I started out prepared to make caramel apples a la Martha Stewart. If Martha’s recipeforanything isn’t reputable, what is? But then I realized that the one cup of heavy whipping cream I had in my refrigerator probably wouldn’t stretch across the seven very large apples waiting to be coated in caramel. So I did a quick search for recipes not calling for heavy whipping cream and came across one that looked and sounded fabulous at Ella Claire and bam! I knew this was my recipe. Plus it was made with sweetened condensed milk and – hello – I’m a baker. I always have sweetened condensed milk on hand.
Sifting through my cupboards pulling out the ingredients I discovered something disturbing: I was out of sweetened condensed milk. I found a recipe recently for a pumpkin pie calling for either sweetened condensed milk or heavy whipping cream. So I decided if you can substitute the two in pies, you can substitute the two in caramel. Makes sense, right?
I’ll spare you the gory details of how I double boiled my caramel afraid that it wasn’t going to be thick enough after the first boiling and let you know that the caramel made with whipping cream instead of sweetened condensed milk was mostly a success. But next time I try this recipe, I think I’ll try it as God intended. With sweetened condensed milk.
1 c. butter (I almost always use salted)
1 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. dark corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 c. heavy whipping cream OR one 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
- 8 to 10 large apples (I used very large in-season honey crisps)
- popsicle sticks or twigs (the twigs will need to be sturdy if you’re using big apples)
- chopped nuts, candies, mini chocolate chips, etc.
- non-stick cooking spray
- cupcake liners (optional)
- First read the Ella Claire tips for making caramel apples. This will tell you how to prep your apples by removing the wax. I skipped that step out of laziness and disorganization (read about it after the fact) and really wished I had de-waxed my apples because I felt like I had a bit of a tough time getting my caramel to stick.
- Prepare your apples by washing and drying (or de-waxing) and fitting with a twig or popsicle stick right down in the core of the apple. You can remove the stem of the apple first, but I didn’t. (Laziness.)
- Prepare any chopped nuts or candies you’re using and place into shallow wide-rimmed bowls.
- Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add sugars, salt, corn syrup and heavy whipping cream. Cook mixture over medium-high heat until the mixture boils, stirring constantly until mixture reaches exactly 240 degrees on your candy thermometer. Remove from heat and continue to stir for another minute or so. Add vanilla and incorporate.
- Let the caramel cool down a bit. At least 10 minutes, maybe closer to 20. I took a shower while mine was cooling.
- Dip apples individually into your caramel until the apple is coated about three-fourths of the way up the side. I had to rotate my apple around as I waited for the caramel to begin to cool (holding the apple in the air all the while). Once the caramel has cool enough where it’s not quickly sliding down the apple, dip the apple into your favorite candy or nut and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (spray the parchment paper with cooking spray). Move to the fridge and move on to your next apple. Repeat the process until you’re done decorating each apple.
Martha, I didn’t completely abandon your recipe even though I went for one with different ingredients. I did incorporate your boiling technique and I think it worked – even though I was swapping ingredients you’re maybe not supposed to swap.
These apples were a huge hit with my coworkers at the potluck. Even random passersby were oohing and aahing. By afternoon, when I was ready to leave, the apples had built up quite a reputation. People were stopping me to tell me they’d heard about my caramel apples all day long. And several people asked me for the recipe.
I wasn’t overly pleased with the appearance because I’m a perfectionist and I had a heck of a time getting the caramel to stick to the apples. Such a heck of a time that I kept having to
man-handle mold the caramel and the candies back up toward the top of the apple as the caramel slowly slid toward the pan. (This can be done with wax paper. It’s not the best idea because the wax paper sticks to the caramel – so perhaps Saran wrap would work better in this instance).
I meant to make these apples even fancier by drizzling chocolate on top. But I ran out of time, patience and motivation. I dipped my apples in chopped Snickers, Butterfinger and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, whole pecans, mini m&m’s and mini chocolate chips. When presenting the apples for the potluck, I cut the apple into eighths. The pecan caramel apple (which was supposed to be a turtle caramel apple until I got lazy) got the best reviews.