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! I use Merckens)
1cup (200 g)light brown sugar mixed with 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 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)
Preparing the apples:
Boil water in a Dutch oven or large stockpot over high heat. Turn off the burner and dunk the apples in the hot water, turning over several times to remove the wax. Drain on paper towels and dry off with paper (or cloth) towels until completely dry and free of wax.
Push the craft sticks or dowels into the center of each apple, but don't push all the way through to the other side. Set apples on parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheets and refrigerate while you make the caramel.
Making the caramel, microwave method:
Melt butter in a large 4 quart microwave-safe bowl or pitcher. Add the rest of the caramel ingredients, except for the vanilla extract, and stir with a silicone spatula until well combined. Microwave for 2 minutes and stir. Microwave for two more 2-minute intervals, stirring in between each.
Check the temperature of the caramel using an infrared thermometer, candy thermometer, or instant read thermometer. If it's between 235-245, the caramel is done. If not, microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring and checking between each interval, until you reach the desired temperature.
Add the vanilla and stir to combine. It will bubble up, so be careful. Allow the caramel to cool until it's between 200-210 degrees.
Making the caramel, stovetop method:
Combine all caramel ingredients in 2½ 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.
Dipping Apples in Caramel
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 shake carefully to 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. Allow caramel to cool and set completely.
While caramel is cooling, prepare toppings and melt chocolate(s). Remove apples from refrigerator and dunk or drizzle with chocolate(s) and then dip into desired toppings while chocolate is still wet. Place apples back on prepared baking sheets to completely set.
Store apples in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 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 2-3 weeks, IF they'll last that long. Around my house, they're gone pretty quick!
You can cut this recipe in half if you only have a microwave-safe bowl or pitcher that's 2-3 quart. You need to make sure you have enough space at the top for the caramel to bubble up without spilling over.
You can also double this recipe for about 24 apples, but I haven't tried it in the microwave yet. If doing on the stovetop, 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 Merckens brand white or dark/milk chocolate melting wafers (you'll find a link within the post above). Wilton is NOT gluten free!