These are one of my favorite desserts of all time. Sure, they are a great Fair Food for a lot of people; but for me, they are a fun and easy (but also messy) bake sale item.
It took me several tries and different recipes over the years to finally decide four things:
1) melting store-bought caramel was never going to be good enough and
2) I prefer my gourmet apples ugly, not pretty, thank you very much. That is because I like so many toppings: I prefer milk chocolate AND white chocolate, plus pecans and coconut…and unless you are a pro (see links to articles below), those apples will not be very pretty. But that doesn’t really matter when you eat it, now does it?
3)People care about their caramel apples. A lot. See links to articles below.
4) it is always easier to buy them premade. But it is still worth making yourself.
The apples can be personalized in so many ways, a lot like cupcakes and cookies.
This fabulous recipe is from epicurious.com, though I grabbed it from simplerecipes.com . I suggest that site for the fantastic step-by-step photos the writer obviously put a lot of time and energy in to.
Here is the recipe:
1 1-pound box dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon robust-flavored (dark) molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 sturdy lollipop sticks or chopsticks
12 medium apples
Assorted decorations (such as chopped nuts, chopped raisins, mini M&M’s and candy sprinkles)
Equipment needed – one accurate candy thermometer.
1 Combine sugar, butter, condensed milk, corn syrup, maple syrup, vanilla, molasses and salt in a thick-bottomed 2 1/2 or 3 quart saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon on medium-low heat until all the sugar dissolves. There should be no grittiness (sugar crystals) when you test by rubbing a little of the caramel between your fingers. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals that might form on the pan sides.
2 Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to the pan and cook caramel at a rolling boil until the thermometer reaches 236°F, stirring constantly and slowly with a wooden spatula. Continue to occasionally brush the sides down with a pastry brush. Carefully pour caramel into a metal bowl. Cool until the temperature lowers to 200°F, at which point you are ready to dip the apples.
3 While the caramel is cooking/cooling, prepare a large baking sheet, covering it with buttered aluminum foil. Insert a chopstick or sturdy lollipop stick into each apple, about 2-inches, top down, into the apple core.
4 When the caramel has cooled enough for dipping, dip the apples in, one by one, by holding on to the stick, and vertically lowering the apple into the caramel, submerging all but the very top of the apple. Pull the apple up from the caramel and let the excess caramel drip off from the bottom back into the pan. Then place on the prepared foil. The caramel will pool a little at the bottom of each apple. Place into the refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes.
5 Once the caramel has chilled a bit, remove from the refrigerator and use your fingers to press the caramel that has dripped to the bottom of the apples, back on to the apples. Then take whatever coatings you want and press them into the apples for decoration. Return to the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.