Caramel from scratch is easy! And apples dipped in delicious homemade caramel sauce are perfect for Halloween!
Caramel apples are one of those things that are as much fun to make as they are to eat! I made this batch with my goddaughter Piper with apples she had picked at a nearby orchard.
The last time I made caramel apples with young Piper she was barely 4 years old, and she covered her apple with pink sprinkles.
This time, we kept our homemade caramel apples simple and unadorned, but you could easily dress them up with chopped nuts, raisins, M&Ms, or candy sprinkles.
What Kind of Apples Work Best?
For caramel apples you want an apple that is firm, tart, and crisp. Tart apples will especially help balance the sweetness of the caramel. Granny Smith, Jonagold, Cortland, Fuji, and Empire apples all work well.
That said, feel free to experiment! If you have a favorite apple that you think will work well with caramel, try it, and let us know how it works for you in the comments.
Making the Caramel from Scratch
Many recipes for caramel apples just take caramel candies and melt them to make the caramel coating. I prefer to make the caramel sauce from scratch. The taste is phenomenal (no worries about what to do with the leftover sauce, it will get eaten up quickly) and it really isn’t hard to make.
It’s just sugar, butter, cream, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, and salt. It comes together right on the stovetop.
In addition to the base ingredients, the one thing you do need is an accurate candy thermometer
or instant read thermometer (though at least one reader—see comments—has winged it without one).
A Word About Corn Syrup and Molasses
Why the corn syrup in the caramel? Corn syrup is an “invert sugar” that helps prevent the sugar in the caramel from crystallizing, and it also helps to soften the caramel. Dark corn syrup is bolder in flavor than light corn syrup, with molasses notes, so use it instead of light corn syrup if you can.
If you don’t have access to molasses, you can substitute the sugar and molasses with one cup and one tablespoon of dark brown sugar, packed.
Tips and Tricks for the Best Caramel Apples
- Remove the wax coating: Apples from the store often have a wax coating on them which should be removed before attempting to coat them in caramel. To remove, dip the apples in boiling water mixed with a splash of vinegar for a few seconds, remove and thoroughly dry.
- Make sure apples are dry: Caramel will stick to apples best if the fruit is dry and at room temperature.
- Leave a little space near the top: Don’t completely submerge your apples in the caramel. The apples will naturally out-gas near the stem, and if they are covered with caramel, bubbles will form.
- Doubling this recipe: This recipe will double easily. If you do that, use a 4-quart pot to make the sauce.
Make Ahead and Store
You can easily make the caramel apples ahead of time. Caramel apples should not be stored at room temperature. Refrigerate them and store them chilled for up to two weeks. Let them come to room temperature to serve; the caramel will be more pliable at room temp and the apples easier to eat.
MORE DO-IT-YOURSELF CANDIED TREATS!
Updated October 7, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.