Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gourmet Caramel Apples

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Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

Tomorrow is October 1st. That means that it is no longer weird or socially unacceptable that my fall decorations have been up since August. I officially fit in.

One thing I've never done during the fall is make caramel apples. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of apples, but I am a fan of caramel, chocolate, Reese's, cashews and Snickers. In other words, I have taken out any nutritional value from this piece of fruit.



I lived and learned with this recipe, more specifically, the actual mechanics of making this. I'll share my successes and failures, but overall, I think these came out absolutely amazing.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 
2 sticks unsalted butter

  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 
2/3 cup dark corn syrup

  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 
1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 large apples
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Assorted toppings for dipping. This can include: 
    • Toffee bits
    • Chopped nuts
    • Coconut
    • Crushed cookies
    • Candy bars

Directions:

Wash and dry apples



Place sticks in cores and place on a baking sheet in the fridge to chill. 



To prepare caramel, combine first 8 ingredients in heavy 2 1/2-quart nonstick saucepan (about 3-4 inches deep, at least). 



Stir with wooden or silicone spatula over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves (no crystals are felt when caramel is rubbed between fingers), occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush or scraping with spatula, about 15 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil, stirring constantly but slowly with clean spatula and occasionally brushing/scraping down sides of pan, about 12 minutes. Pour caramel into a bowl. Let cool for about 20 minutes.



While caramel cools, set up your decorating station with a few cookie sheets, napkins, crushed toppings and extra popsicle sticks (you will use these later)




Holding stick, dip 1 apple into the caramel. 



Submerge all but very top of apple.



Oh, boy.



Lift apple out, allowing excess caramel to drip back into bowl. Turn apple caramel side up and hold for several seconds to help set caramel around apple. If needed, gently scrape the bottom of the apple with popsicle stick to remove excess caramel. 



Place coated apple on baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining apples and caramel, spacing apples apart (caramel will pool a bit on foil). If caramel becomes too thick to dip into, gently heat in microwave, or add 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream and briefly whisk caramel in bowl over low heat to thin.



    Here is something I made a mistake by doing. I used wax paper. Do not use wax paper. It's great in theory, but if it catches any kind of breeze, or when you lift the sticky apple from it, it will randomly stick to the other apples. Just go with a baking sheet.



    Another tip: eventually the bowl will get low on caramel. Don't panic. After submerging, twist apple at an angle, as seen in the picture above. 


    By the time you have dipped all the apples, the first ones should be ready partially set enough to add toppings. If not, chill in fridge for a few minutes. I decided to melt some chocolate to have a second layer on it. Mine look a little funny because I decided to microwave the chocolate in a bowl instead of using my double broiler. Big mistake. Good thing the candy bars were there to help cover my mistakes.



    Firmly press decorations into the caramel and return to baking sheet. You can also drizzle melted chocolate over caramel-coated apples and sprinkle with decorations. Chill until decorations are set, about 1 hour. Cover; chill up to 1 week or wrap in cellophane bags for gift giving.

    Since I know you're dying to know...this is how I wrapped them:


    First, I obviously waited until they cooled completely in the fridge. Then, I placed them on about 2 coffee filters.


    I grabbed a bag of clear gift baggies (20 for $.97). Place the apple (carefully) in the bag.



    I had some brown netted tulle sitting around, so I cut them in small pieces and tied a bow around the stick.



    I found these little pearls deep in my closet-they were from my wedding (I told Tim I would eventually use them)! I went ahead and pinned that on, just for the heck of it.

    I ran into a little problem with labeling. I don't typically have cutesy little labels just sitting around, so I used what I had...


    Address labels! I just wrote the name of the person over the address and stuck it on the bottom of the wrapping.



    And that's it!

    Okay, I'll be honest with you-these took about 3 hours to make 14. But if you have a free afternoon and are getting the itch to celebrate the beautiful fall weather, this is for you. It can also be simplified. The caramel recipe in and of itself is outstanding, and these can easily stand alone with just that. Be creative, and have fun!

    Love and fall,


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