What says fall better than caramel apples? Granny Smith apples, homemade caramel, chocolate, white chocolate, and cinnamon brown sugar make the BEST gourmet caramel apples you’ll ever have!!
I’ve been making these apples for over 20 years, even selling them on occasion. So when my family sees me with a bunch of Granny Smith apples, the first thing they say is “are you making caramel apples?!?!” And then they usually fight over who gets the first one AND the last one! Haha!!
WHY GRANNY SMITH APPLES?
We all know that caramel is sugary sweet, and adding all the other goodies takes it over the top. That’s why Granny Smith apples work so well here. The tart, crisp apples help balance out the sweetness of the caramel and other toppings for a flavor explosion in your mouth! I like them best when they’re slightly cold because it really makes the apples juicy.
If you’re buying your apples from a grocery store (not a farmer’s market, apple orchard, or something of that sort), you should remove any waxy residue. Begin by filling your sink with very hot tap water and adding about a capful of white vinegar. Dip the apples in the sink for about 20-30 seconds before removing and rinsing. Allow the apples to dry or dry them with paper towels.
TIPS FOR MAKING THE CARAMEL
I’ve been making caramel from scratch for years and it can be tricky. Carefully reading through the instructions is key, but here are some tips for success:
- Have everything ready before beginning. Caramel waits for no one!
- Begin with room temperature butter. Butter straight from the fridge won’t melt as fast as the other ingredients and could separate in the process.
- Make sure to stir often, over medium-low heat, for about 10-15 minutes when first melting everything together. Trying to rush it will result in burnt caramel with sugar crystals present.
- When all sugar has dissolved, clip on the candy thermometer and increase heat to medium-high and begin stirring nonstop, slowly. Do NOT walk away! It takes patience to create the best caramel.
- When the caramel is done and you’re pouring it into another bowl, DON’T scrape it. The caramel at the bottom of the pan will most likely be scorched. Just let it slowly pour out of the pan and leave any residual caramel in the pan.
- Last, but not least, be careful! Getting burned is no fun. Keep ice water nearby in case you burn yourself.
PREPARING AND DIPPING THE APPLES
While the caramel is cooling, prepare the apples by pushing the sticks through the middle of the apples at the core. I use these, but pretty much any stick that’s sturdy enough to hold an apple up without bending or breaking is just fine.
Once the caramel is at the right temperature, dip the apples by submerging them into the caramel. I like to leave a little bit of the green showing on top. But feel free to submerge the entire apple if that’s how you roll. If your bowl is smaller and deep, you should be able to dip straight down and pull out of the caramel. If not, you’ll need to roll the apples on their sides to fully enrobe them in the caramel.
Pull the apples up and out of the caramel, letting any excess caramel drip off apples. Then flip them upside down (or really, right side up) and hold for a minute or so until the caramel begins to set before placing on parchment-lined baking sheet. I’ve found the best surface that doesn’t stick is parchment.
After all the apples have been dipped in caramel, put the trays in the refrigerator to chill while you get the toppings ready.
TOPPING THE APPLES
Over the years, I’ve made every kind of apple imaginable. I’ve always drizzled them with both white and milk or dark chocolate coating, and then added different toppings. M&M’s, toasted coconut, toasted pecans or peanuts, chopped Oreo’s (or gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies for all of us gluten-free people), sprinkles, you name it!! It’s all about personal preference.
If using chocolate coatings, drizzle with one chocolate at a time. In other words, drizzle with milk chocolate first and let set. Then drizzle with white chocolate and while still wet, roll apples in toppings of choice.
I used to make all those different flavors, but everyone always fought over the last brown sugar cinnamon one, so that’s all I make now. When you taste these apples, you just might feel the same way. They are SO.DARN.GOOD!!
I suppose you could bite into these babies if you really want to, but I suggest cutting them into pieces. It’s so much easier to deal with. Remove them from the refrigerator about 10-15 minutes before you plan on serving them. Then just cut all around the core and into pieces. You can share with others, IF you can manage to part with them 😉
Armed with these tips and the best caramel recipe, you’re sure to be successful in making your own gourmet caramel apples! You’ll never have to buy them again and will please all of your family and friends. And they’ll be amazed with your skills!
The Best Gourmet Caramel Apples
For the caramel:
- 1 pound (453 g) dark or light brown sugar
- 1 cup (226 g) butter, at room temperature
- 14 ounces (1 can, 396 g) sweetened condensed milk
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) dark corn syrup
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) pure maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1 tsp molasses
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the apples:
- 12 craft or candy making sticks
- 12 medium Granny Smith apples
- melted dark, milk, and/or white chocolate or chocolate coating (such as almond bark or candy coating wafers) (Wilton Candy Melts are NOT guaranteed gluten free!)
- 1 cup (200 g) light brown sugar mixed with 1 tbsp cinnamon OR assorted toppings of choice (such as chopped toasted nuts, dried fruit, M&M's, toasted coconut, sprinkles, crushed gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies, etc)
Making the caramel:
- Combine all caramel ingredients in 2 1/2 quart saucepan (about 3 inches deep) and stir with a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, about 15 minutes. (Occasionally brush down sides of pan with pastry brush dipped in water to remove sugar crystals from sides).
- Once sugar crystals are dissolved, attach clip-on candy thermometer to side of the pan and increase heat to medium-high. Stirring constantly, but slowly, cook caramel at a rolling boil until thermometer reaches 236 degrees, about 12-15 minutes.
- Pour caramel into metal or other heat-safe bowl (do not scrape bottom) and place thermometer into caramel. Let cool for approximately 20 minutes, or until thermometer registers 200 degrees.
Preparing and dipping the apples:
- While the caramel cools, push craft stick into stem end of each apple, but try not to let it go all the way through to the other side.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
- Holding apple by the stick, dip into the caramel, submerging all but very top of apple (to allow some green to show). Lift apple out and allow excess caramel to drip back into bowl. Turn apple caramel side up and hold for several seconds to allow caramel to set around the apple. Place apple on prepared baking sheets. Repeat, dipping each apple as above.
- Chill apples on baking sheets at least 15 minutes. If caramel has pooled around bottom, lift apples from parchment and press caramel back up around the apples, covering completely.
- While apples are chilling, prepare toppings and melt chocolate(s). Remove apples from refrigerator and drizzle with chocolates, one at a time (allow each chocolate to set for a few minutes before drizzling with another chocolate). While final chocolate is still wet, roll apples in brown sugar cinnamon OR toppings of choice. Place back on parchment-lined baking sheets to completely set.
- Store apples in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- These make great gifts for teachers, coaches, employees, employers, friends, family, you name it! Wrap in pretty clear or iridescent wrapping plastic and tie with a bow.
- Apples will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, IF they’ll last that long. Around my house, they’re gone pretty quick!
- You CAN double this recipe for about 24 apples. Just be sure to use a 5-quart saucepan/dutch oven, big enough to hold all the caramel so it doesn’t boil over. There’s nothing worse than cleaning spilled caramel off a stove top :/
- For the white and dark chocolate coating, I use either Almond Bark from any grocery store or Make N Mold chocolate candy wafers that I purchase from my local AC Moore craft store. Wilton is NOT gluten free!
The BEST Gourmet Caramel Apples was originally posted on October 10, 2018 and has been updated with new pictures and new tips for making the best apples possible!