It’s okay, you can say it. I’m a liar. I really did have an actual meal for you today. But then I went grocery shopping. And I bought apples. I love it when I find the bags of little tiny apples; do you know what I’m talking about? They’re smaller than normal apples, and I love them because they’re the perfect size for my little kids because they’re easy to hold and they can eat the entire thing (as opposed to eating half the apple and then leaving it somewhere super convenient, like under the couch, in the toy box, or behind the tv for me to find later.) They’re also perfect for caramel apples because they’re just a little more manageable to eat and you can make more. So I bought my little apples and everything else I needed to dip them for a fun family activity. And then, I saw it.
I am not joking when I say these are the biggest apples I’ve ever seen in my LIFE. Here’s a comparison to a normal sized apple. Applezilla is well over a foot in circumference and it weighs a pound and a half!
How could I not get them?? With caramel apples on my mind already, I knew these were destined to be the biggest, baddest apples of all time.
We’ve got a couple of posts on caramel apples already. Kate did a good, basic how-to on quick and easy apples, and last fall I shared a yummy recipe for homemade honey caramel apples. We get a lot of requests for homemade caramel for apples and I stumbled across this recipe and was dying to try it. Folks, this stuff knocks the socks off of those little plastic-wrapped caramels. If you want amazing, impressive, gourmet style apples- the kind you can bust your wallet buying in a fancy little boutique store, this is it.
Making dipped apples isn’t complicated, but I can tell you it is so, so much easier with a few tricks, so I’m going to give you all of the ones I’ve got! First of all, you’ll want to wash your apples well (I usually use a tiny bit of soap to remove any waxy film) and then dry them completely.
Go ahead and place the sticks in the apples, placing them right where the stem comes out. I’ve found it helps to chill the apples because when they’re cold, the caramel sticks and sets quicker. So after the sticks are all in, place them in the fridge to chill while you do everything else.
It also helps to get all of your toppings ready before you even start. When working with candy, you want to be ready to go as soon as it reaches a certain temperature, so start with a clean kitchen, open sink space, and get your toppings and work space prepared first.
For the caramel, you’ll need all of this yummy stuff.
One of the reasons I was attracted to this recipe was because all of the flavor in there. I love a good sugar+butter+cream caramel, but this one has sweetened condensed milk, dark corn syrup, molasses, dark brown sugar and pure maple syrup (seriously, no Aunt Jamima here- use the good stuff. I know it’s expensive, but YES it’s worth it. Keep it hidden in your pantry for recipes so your kids don’t pour it on their pancakes and pull it out for special occasions, like this caramel.) The flavor and the texture are seriously amazing. And don’t be intimidated by the fact that it requires a thermometer; it’s seriously easy caramel and really simple to work with. All you have to do is dump all of the ingredients in a big pot
And stir it until everything is melted and dissolved. Then turn up the heat and boil it until it reaches temperature. If you have a non-stick pot I suggest using it; caramel and sweetened condensed milk can burn fairly easily in stainless steel.
When you’re choosing a bowl to put your cooked caramel in, choose the smallest bowl possible that will fit all of the caramel; that will make dipping easier. And a tall, narrower bowl is better than a wide, shallow one. One of the tricks is to not dip your apples when the caramel is right off the stove; it will be so hot, it will fall right off the apples. 200 degrees is a good temp that makes the caramel easy to work with and it will stay on the apples. Just plunge them in and let the excess run off.
Flip the apples upside-down for a few seconds and then twirl them around. Before I place them on my baking sheet, I use a spoon to just gently scrape excess off the bottom so you don’t end up with a huge pool of caramel.
Now, if you dip your apples in toppings right after the caramel, the toppings will slide right off and you’ll be stuck with a big gloppy ugly mess. So just be patient and keep dipping the apples in caramel and let them set before you dip in toppings. The caramel will never harden so much that you can’t add anything to it so don’t stress.
By the time you finish dipping all the apples, the first ones should be ready for toppings. Pull them off your sheet (a silicone baking mat will be your best friend here. If you don’t have any, try a piece of buttered foil.) and don’t worry if some of the caramel sticks to the sheet, or pulls off the bottom of the apple. Use your hands to gently press the pooled caramel around the bottom of the apple. This caramel is great; it’s soft enough to mold and handle, but not so soft that it’s sticky and messy.
Then you can go crazy with the decorations. Depending on what you’re using, you can either roll your apple in the topping, or use your hands to gently press them into the caramel. If you want, have some melted chocolate ready and you can dip over the caramel. Chocolate tends to be a little thicker, so dip it less than you want the final apple to be dipped, and use a knife to scrape off excess chocolate on the bottom.
When you then dip in something else, like chopped peanuts like I have here, the nuts will sort of push the chocolate further up the apple.
Once they’re all dipped, you can decorate with more chocolate. Place some melted chocolate in a heavy duty ziplock bag and cut the end off. (You can actually melt chocolate chips right in the bag in the microwave and just smash them around until melted and smooth) and then drizzle away.
Be creative and have fun! Some of the things I love to use are: crushed cookies or candybars, graham cracker crumbs, chopped nuts, toffee bits, and toasted coconut. It’s fun coming up with new combinations and finding things that look as pretty as they are delicious!
Here’s some of our favorites from this go-around.
S’mores Apple! Carmel dipped and rolled in crushed graham crackers. Marshmallows pressed in by hand and drizzled in chocolate. The one on the right is semi-sweet chocolate and chopped peanuts on the bottom, and white chocolate with toasted coconut on top.
On the left we have another chocolate peanut combo, and on the right, caramel with crushed Butterfinger, drizzled white chocolate, and more Butterfinger. Oh my gosh I love Butterfingers…
This was maybe my fave- caramel dipped and rolled in toasted almonds, and toasted coconut with dried sweet cherries (just pressed in by hand) and white chocolate. So good.
And the apple-zillas? They got rolled in chopped toffee and drizzled in two kinds of chocolate.They weighed over TWO POUNDS each!
I made a few of the gigantic ones and took one of them to a friend who reminded me of the best way to eat them. Caramel apples can be a pain to just bite into, so just take a sharp knife and slice both sides off the apple, on either side of the stick:
Then slice off the remaining two sides, and slice the halves into slices.
My little helper was SO patient through the photoshoot and couldn’t wait to get his hands on a huge apple. This gives you a better idea of how big they are; close to the size of his head! The kid could barely hold that thing up.
So there you have it. You are all ready to save your cash at the overpriced-gourmet-caramel-apple-store and make up your own! If you want to package them up (great for gift giving to friends, neighbors, co-workers, school teachers, favorite food bloggers, etc.) chill the finished apples for at least an hour so everything is set and then place in cellophane bags. Store in fridge until you’re ready to give them away. Or change your mind and eat them all yourself. I won’t tell.
Caramel Apple Fondue: I also wanted to mention that you can easily turn something like this into a fun party food. Just put the warm caramel into bowls, or a fondue pot and put all of your toppings in little bowls. Slice a bunch of apples and just let people dip the apples into the caramel and then into a topping. We did this as a family last night and my kids LOVED it. It’s so fun and so easy. It would make a great dessert buffet for a party!
Homemade Caramel for Apple Dipping
Recipe from Bon Appétit, slightly adapted by ourbestbites.com
1 pound dark brown sugar (about 2 cups packed brown sugar)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 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 medium sized apples (that’s a pretty conservative measurement, this makes a lot of caramel)
popsicle sticks or chopsticks
assorted toppings for dipping (toffee bits, chopped nuts, coconut, crushed cookies or candy bars, etc.)
Optional: melted chocolate in zip-top bags
Wash and dry apples; place sticks in cores and place on a baking sheet in the fridge to chill. Prepare all toppings in bowls and have them ready to go.
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.
Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil until thermometer registers 236°F, stirring constantly but slowly with clean spatula and occasionally brushing/scraping down sides of pan, about 12 minutes. Pour caramel into a bowl. Submerge thermometer bulb in caramel. Cool to 200°F, about 20 minutes. If it cools too much just heat it up a little.
While caramel cools, line 1-2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or buttered foil. Set up decorations and melted chocolates.
Holding stick, dip 1 apple into 200°F caramel, submerging all but very top of apple. 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 to remove excess caramel. Place coated apple on prepared 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.
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. Lift 1 apple from foil. Using hand, press pooled caramel around apple. Then firmly press decorations into the caramel and return to baking sheet.
If desired dip caramel-coated apples into melted chocolate, allowing excess to drip off, then roll in nuts or candy. Or 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.