30 mins, plus chilling time
This basic caramel recipe is creamy and sweet and complements any apple it coats. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of coating the apples, you can just use the caramel as a dip for apple slices.
What to buy: A reliable candy/fat thermometer is crucial for getting an accurate read on the caramel. We like this thermometer from CDN.
Craft sticks give these apples an authentic state-fair feel. Look for them next to the apples in the produce section of the grocery store or order them online. If you can’t find them, chopsticks will work in a pinch.
Game plan: To take your apples to the next level, you can prepare them through step 3, then quickly roll them in an assortment of toppings (crushed graham crackers, candies, nuts, pretzels, malt balls, etc.) before letting them completely set up.
You’ll have a bit of caramel left after dipping the apples, so try making some soft caramels with the excess. To do so, pour the remaining caramel into a parchment-lined, 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and, if desired, sprinkle with sea salt. Let sit at room temperature until it’s set. Remove the caramel from the pan and cut it into 1-inch pieces.
8 large apples
8 chopsticks or craft sticks
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Wash the apples under hot water to get off any wax coating, then dry thoroughly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. Set the apples stem side up, and push the sticks down into the apple cores; set aside. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice and water.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the mixture registers 250°F on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Immediately dip the bottom of the saucepan in the ice water bath and let it chill until the bubbles have subsided, about 1 minute. Stir until stiff caramel from the bottom is incorporated into the warm caramel on top. Remove from the water bath.
Dip the apples one at a time into the caramel, rotating once to coat 3/4 of the way up the sides. Lift the apple straight up from the caramel, letting the excess drip back into the pot until the drips have slowed, about 10 to 15 seconds. Flip the apple so the stem is facing downward and let the caramel set, about 10 to 15 seconds more. Place on the prepared baking sheet, stem side up, and repeat with the remaining apples. (If the caramel gets too hard to coat the apples well, set the pan over low heat and rewarm, stirring constantly, until the caramel is loose and pourable.)
Refrigerate the apples until set, at least 10 minutes. The apples can be made and stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day in advance.