It's officially fall. Somebody pinch me, please. I told you a few months back that I was torn between summer and fall -- and I'm not quite sure what happened between now and then, but I'm all for fall right now. I'm ready for cold weather. In fact, I'm honestly very ready for winter, but I'm trying to pace myself, so right now I'm just all in for fall. In the past week, I've made an Appleberry pie, caramel apples and pumpkin spice macarons -- all of which will hit this blog very soon, I hope, but first we're going to start with caramel apples, because it just feels right.
Lots of people have this childish obsession with caramel apples, like me with chocolate milkshakes or marshmallow fluff, but I wasn't really a fruit dessert kind of kid. (I don't know what kid is, but I'm sure there are some of them out there.) I remember having a few caramel apples growing up -- mostly at the Chocolate Factory or Fuzziwig's in Steamboat Springs, rolled in M&M's or chocolate chips -- but I have fonder memories of more dessert-y desserts, like ice cream, cookies and cake. As I've grown older, fruit desserts have grown on me. Fruit pies are one of my favorites, if you haven't noticed, and a true weakness of mine is anything lemon or citrus. But to me, there's something so satisfying about a caramel apple when the time is right, which is... now.
Put a caramel apple in front of me during the spring or the summer and you might get slapped. (I know that's aggressive, but who eats caramel apples when it's hot?) If it's getting colder where you are, or if you're just feeling all the fall feels, I bet you're craving a caramel apple rolled in something crunchy or salty or sweet or all of the above, which is why I'm sharing this recipe.
I went a little crazy with the toppings, and so should you. I used what I already had lying around in my pantry - sprinkles, flaked salt, pecan chips, chocolate & coconut -- but some other fun ideas could be:
Candies (M&M's, Reese's Pieces, crushed Butterfinger)
Whatever floats your boat, you go for it. Just remember to work quickly when you're dipping these, and to keep your caramel over very low heat so it doesn't harden while you're working. As for apples, I went with Granny Smiths and Gala, and I preferred the Granny Smiths - they're more tart and a little crunchier, which goes perfectly with caramel, but again, go with the apple that floats your boat. This might be the simplest, most versatile fall recipe we've got, so do yourself a favor and add it to your weekend baking list!
Prep time: 40 minutes | Yields 6-7 large caramel apples
6 large apples of your choice, refrigerated; Granny Smith recommended
1/2 cup water
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup heavy cream*
*This makes a thicker caramel - if you'd like a thinner, more delicate caramel, increase this by 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons
Using popsicle sticks, skewer each apple at the stem and return to the fridge to chill. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine water, sugar and salt over high heat, stirring with a fork until the mixture comes to a boil, about 4 minutes. Turn heat to medium-high and simmer, WITHOUT STIRRING, until the syrup turns a golden color. If this takes longer than 8-9 minutes, turn your heat up and watch very carefully - this happens quickly and you don't want to burn your caramel. Keeping your face away from the saucepan, immediately add the cream - the mixture will steam rapidly - and reduce the heat to medium low, until the caramel registers 250 F on a candy thermometer. Turn the heat to low and allow to cool until about 212 F.
Do not remove the caramel from heat while you're dipping your apples - if you do, the caramel will harden. Keep it on very low heat so it stays dip-able (is this a word?). Dip each apple into the mixture and hold over the pan, allowing the excess to drip off, then immediately roll in your desired toppings. Place on a baking sheet or a platter lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining apples.