Caramel apples are one of those things that are as much fun to make as they are to eat. I made this batch with my goddaughter Piper with apples she had picked apple picking at a nearby orchard. The last time I made caramel apples with young Piper she was barely 4 years old, and she covered her apple with pink sprinkles. This time we kept them simple and unadorned, but you could easily dress them up with chopped nuts, raisins, M&Ms, or candy sprinkles.
Many recipes for caramel apples just take caramel candies and melt them. I prefer to make the caramel sauce from scratch. The taste is phenomenal (no worries about what to do with the leftover sauce, it won’t last) and it really isn’t hard to make. In addition to the base ingredients, the one thing you do need is an accurate candy thermometer (though at least one reader—see comments—has winged it without one). Beyond that it’s just sugar, butter, cream, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, and salt.
Recipe updated. First posted in 2006.
You can easily double the recipe, if you do, use a 4-quart pot to make the caramel sauce.
If you don't have access to molasses, you can substitute the one cup of white sugar and tablespoon of molasses with one cup and one tablespoon of dark brown sugar, packed.
Why the corn syrup? Corn syrup is an "invert sugar" that will help prevent the sugar in the caramel from crystallizing. It also helps to soften the caramel.
Apples from the store often have a wax coating on them which should be removed before attempting to coat them in caramel. To remove you can dip the apples in boiling water mixed with a splash of vinegar for a few seconds, remove and thoroughly dry.
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp dark molasses
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
- 6 sturdy lollipop sticks or chopsticks
- 6 medium apples (rinsed and patted dry, room temperature)
- Assorted decorations (such as chopped nuts, chopped raisins, mini M&M's and candy sprinkles)
- Equipment needed—one accurate candy thermometer.
1 Place sugar, butter, cream, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, and salt (omit if using salted butter) in a thick-bottomed 3-4 quart saucepan. Heat on medium to medium low heat and stir slowly with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. If you see sugar crystals on the edge of the pan, brush them down with a wet pastry brush.
2 Let the caramel mixture come to a rolling boil, adjusting the heat so that the caramel doesn't boil over the pan. Continue to stir in a slow figure-eight pattern with a wooden spoon. Monitor the temperature of the caramel with a candy thermometer. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 240°F (after about 15 minutes or so of boiling), remove from heat and pour into a metal bowl.
Let the hot caramel mixture sit in the bowl until the temperature cools to just below 200°F, at which point you are ready to dip the apples.
3 While the caramel sauce is cooking and cooling, line a baking sheet with either Silpat or buttered aluminum foil. Insert the sticks (either lollipop sticks, thick wooden skewers, or chopsticks) into the center of the apples through the stem end.
4 When the caramel sauce has cooled sufficiently, working one at a time, dip the apples into the sauce. Swirl each apple around in the sauce so that the caramel sauce completely coats the apple, except for the very top near the stick. Pull the apple up from the sauce and let the excess caramel gently drip back into the bowl. Place the coated apple onto the lined baking sheet. Some caramel sauce will form a little pool at the base of each apple. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
5 Once the caramel has chilled a few minutes, remove from the refrigerator and press the caramel that has pooled at the bottom of the apples up against the side of the apples. If you are using coatings such as sprinkles or chopped nuts, roll the caramel apples in them now. Then return the apples to the refrigerator and chill for at least another hour.
If giving as gifts, after the apples have completely chilled, wrap them in plastic wrap.