What’s a fall party without apples dipped in homemade caramel?
- 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.