This from-scratch caramel is buttery and sweet and can even be used to make soft caramel candies. Caramel apples are the perfect fall transitional dessert. Inspired by crisp fall days at the fair, this treat is fun to make, decorate, serve and eat! The homemade caramel sauce is soft, chewy and slightly sticky, in order to adhere to the apples easily. If applied lightly, the caramel won’t run to the bottom of the apple.
The caramel apples are delicious plain, but chopped nuts, toffee pieces, mini-M&M’s, sprinkles or shredded coconut are unique and fun ways to dress them up.
Specialty tools needed: candy thermometer, pastry brush, wooden sticks
8-9 cold apples
1¾ cups heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Prep the apples: rinse the apples with water, then wipe completely dry. Remove the apple stem and insert a caramel apple stick about ¾ down into the apple.
- Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or greased baking sheet.
- Make the caramel: combine heavy cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter and salt in a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat. It is important to keep the heat at medium the entire time the caramel cooks. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the butter is melted. Once melted, brush down the sides of the pan with a water-moistened pastry brush and attach a candy thermometer to the pan, making sure the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan.
- Without stirring, let the mixture cook and bubble until it reaches 235 degrees Fahrenheit. Once at 235 degrees, remove caramel from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow caramel to cool for 10-15 minutes until slightly thickened. If caramel is too thin to coat apples, let it cool and thicken for 5-10 minutes longer.
- Dip the apples: holding the apples by the stick, dip the apples into the warm caramel, tilting the pot as needed to coat all sides of the apple. Lift the apple up and swirl it around or gently tap it against the side of the pot to let excess caramel drip off. Place coated apple on prepared pan. Repeat with remaining apples. Enjoy immediately or allow caramel to set, about 45-60 minutes.
- If desired, you can add toppings. Immediately after coating in caramel and before the caramel sets, roll the caramel-dipped apples in finely chopped nuts, toffee pieces, mini-M&M’s, sprinkles or coconut.