Every fall I get this craving for caramel apples. They are the quintessential autumnal treat, a perfect blend of tart, crisp fruit, chewy sweet caramel, and--if you like a little extra flash--crunchy nuts. While I do have the perfect neighborhood spot to get caramel apples, I've always wanted to make my own.
I've tried my hand at homemade caramel apples several times over the years but had the kind of issues I now know are common among first time caramel apple makers. The caramel would either be so soft that it would slide right off the apples or too hard, making it difficult to bite into. Of course, there were other issues only hippy clean-eating cooks like myself were concerned with, like not using corn syrup or having too many ingredients to count. So there I was, ready to give up the pursuit of a perfect homemade caramel apple when I saw this delightful recipe from 101 Cookbooks (thank you Pinterest!). My taste buds are already looking forward to another batch of these honey kissed caramel apples.
This recipe has everything I was looking for: quality ingredients, foolproof instructions, and perfectly chewy caramel that stays on the apple. Best of all? It only takes three ingredients: honey, cream, and salt. I usually make the salt optional in my recipes but find it works well here to balance the sweetness of the honey. You can also add a little more to give your dessert a stronger salted caramel flavor. Always use local honey for best quality and taste. You can even experiment with types of honey to get different flavors. The darker the honey, the more intense the honey flavor will be. I like to use small local apples because they make the perfect single serving and you can't beat the flavor. Feel free to use bigger ones so long as you stick with tart Granny Smiths.
The only sort of fancy tool you need is a candy thermometer, which you can buy super cheap at most grocery stores. I found that keeping track of the temperature really does matter when making the caramel. Too low a temp and you have runny caramel (great for ice cream, but not apples); too hot, the caramel become brittle. You'll want to stick pretty close to the instructions on this one, unlike my other recipes when you have more wiggle room to adapt to your own tastes. The creative part comes at the end when you can add nuts (I used sunflower seeds, pictured here), chocolate drizzles or other toppings to your apples.
5-10 apples, washed and dried
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Push a popsicle stick into the top of each apple. Fill a large bowl 1/2 full with ice water and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the cream and salt until bubbly--not quite a simmer. Add honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir constantly for about 15-20 minutes or until the mixture reaches about 255-260F degrees (this is where the thermometer comes in handy; just latch it to the side of your saucepan). To stop the caramel from cooking, carefully set the bottom of the saucepan in the bowl of cold water you prepared earlier. Make sure not to get any of the water in the caramel. Keeping stirring until caramel thickens. (You can always put the caramel back on the stove for a few seconds if it gets too thick, but I found it needed to be really chilled and thick for it to stick to the apples.)
Tilt saucepan so all the caramel goes to one side and dunk each apple into the cooling caramel until fully coated. Place each apple on the parchment lined baking sheets and allow the caramel to cool and set at least 20 minutes. When it is almost set (wait at least 10 minutes), you can add extra toppings.
Makes 5-10. Enjoy!
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