Friday, October 28, 2011

Recipe: Caramel Apples

This time, last year, my boyfriend and I were craving some sort of fall-themed treat and we got hooked on the idea of making our own caramel apples. I'd just seen Giada De Laurentiis make caramel apples drizzled in chocolate on her show on Food Network and I was eager to try it out. The recipe is incredibly easy and you can personalize it by using different types of chocolate and adding fun toppings, like sprinkles or chopped nuts. My favorite thing about these apples though is that they can be made and eaten at home for a fall treat, or wrapped in wax paper, tied closed with some curling ribbon, and given out as favors, gifts, or even sent in the mail to someone special (I actually just sent a few to my boyfriend as a surprise and he was pretty excited to get them :D).

Serves: 6
Cooking time: 10 minutes, plus about 3 minutes to melt chocolate
Assembly time: 30 min.-2 hours to allow the caramel on the apples to set, plus 5-10 minutes to decorate apples, and another 2-4 hours to allow the chocolate to set
Difficulty: Easy
Special equipment: 6 wooden sticks (craft sticks, Popsicle sticks, etc.—I actually found wooded sticks in the grocery store that are marketed as sticks for caramel and candy apples)

  • 6 small-to-medium apples (Granny Smith are the absolute BEST—the tartness of the apple is balanced out by the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate coating)
  • 2 (9.5 oz.) bags soft caramel candies, unwrapped (I've seen already-unwrapped caramel balls in the baking aisle before, and those are so nice to use, but mostly I just stick to using the classic Kraft soft caramels)
  • 1/4 cup pulp-free orange juice (the juice helps prevent the caramel from getting too thick and sticky when melted)
  • Approx. 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli brand), melted
  • Toppings for the apples, chopped or crushed into small pieces—I recommend sprinkles (Halloween-themed sprinkles are so fun!), chopped nuts, or crushed candy bars (Heath Bar and Butterfinger work really well)

If the apples have a wax coating (most do), dip the apples into 6 cups of boiling water mixed with 1/4 tsp. white vinegar for 4-8 seconds to remove the coating, then thoroughly dry them. This process helps ensure that the caramel will stick to the apple.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Insert the wooden sticks halfway into the stem-ends of the apples and place them on the baking sheet. In a medium saucepan (I use nonstick, which makes cleaning a little easier), over medium-low to low heat, combine the caramel candies and orange juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the caramels have melted and the mixture is smooth (about 10 minutes)—be sure not to turn the heat up too high, because the caramel can burn. Set aside to cool for a minute or two, then dip the apples in the caramel until they are evenly coated (really, you kind of roll the apple around in the caramel and use a spoon to add more caramel on if needed—a heat-resistant spatula can be used to try to smooth the caramel around the apple). Place the apples back on the baking sheet and allow the caramel to set (you can put them in the fridge, will will make it go a little quicker, or let them set at room temperature).
To melt the chocolate, you can heat it in short bursts in the microwave (about 45 seconds at a time, stirring each time it's removed) until it's melted. You can also use a double boiler or a makeshift double boiler (a heat-resistant bowl set down in a slightly smaller saucepan with a small amount of simmering water)—just put the chocolate in the bowl and allow the slightly simmering water in the pot below it to melt it. Drizzle the chocolate on the apples and sprinkle on toppings while the chocolate is still wet. You can also add toppings when you first add the caramel and it's still warm and sticky. Allow the chocolate to harden, either at room temperature or the fridge, for a few hours. Serve at room temperature (the caramel hardens a little when it's chilled, which makes it hard to eat).

These apples are so delicious and so easy to make! You can personalize them so everyone gets exactly what they want and it's so fun playing around with different chocolates and toppings. Perfect for an autumn treat, Halloween party favor, or a care package!

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