Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples Recipe

Placerville, California is apple country. This time of year, apple farms line nearby country roads and all manner of apple products are sold - apple pies, dumplings, fritter, ciders, doughnuts, sauces, cookies, and of course...caramel apples. On our drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe last weekend Wayne, Jennifer, and I pulled over in Placerville to have a picnic lunch at one of the local wineries nestled in the Sierra foothills. On our round-about way back to the highway we also visited a couple of the local apple-centric attractions. It was just the reminder I needed. For years I've wanted to do a new caramel apple recipe for my site. I thought I might be able to do a version using apples, honey, cream, and salt. That's it. No white sugar, no corn syrup, and no melting of Kraft caramel squares.

Caramel Apple Recipe

I also wanted to avoid a few of the caramel apple pitfalls that have tripped me up in the past. For example, I needed the caramel to stay on the apple. Lots of people, myself included, have had trouble with caramel not setting on their apples. I decided to use the technique I use to make my favorite caramels - the honey-sweetened caramel gives the apples a beautiful, opaque, golden coat and tastes rich, chewy, and decadent.

Caramel Apple Recipe

A few things you should know before you start. You need a candy thermometer. I have one from Whole Foods Market that cost me about $4 - works fine. But I'm going to admit, this time around I used my infrared thermometer gun. Either way, a thermometer is important because the key to this caramel recipe is achieving a good set, you want your caramel to be able to hold a shape once it cools. To make this happen you need to heat the ingredients to a very specific temperature. I know it all sounds precise and fussy, and to a certain extent it is, but really all you're doing here is putting a very short list of ingredients together in a pot, and bringing the temperature up, up, up into what is considered "hard ball" territory 255F - 260F degrees. If you don't heat the caramel enough, it will likely run off the apple, but alternately if you go too hot the caramel will be difficult to bite into, and will have more of a tendency to peel off the apple.

The shot up above was taken by Jennifer Jeffrey on our Sunday morning, Sierra Mtn. stroll.

Caramel Apple Recipe

Please be careful when making caramel apples, you will be working with dangerously hot, sticky, ingredients - I always put on an apron and make sure I have a closed-toed pair of shoes on when making candy. Be extra, extra careful if you have kids around. On the ingredient front, I typically go for a mild clover honey when making caramels.

6 - 8 small apples, unwaxed, cold
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup honey

Special equipment: candy thermometer, and lollipop sticks

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Push a lollipop or popsicle stick deep into each apple - in through the stem.
Fill a large bowl 1/2 full with ice water and set aside.

In a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan heat the cream and salt until tiny bubbles start forming where the milk touches the pan - just before a simmer. Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil. Now reduce the heat to an active simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes minutes or until the mixture reaches about 255-260F degrees. To stop the caramel from cooking, very, very carefully set the bottom of the saucepan in the bowl of cold water you prepared earlier - taking special care not to get any of the water in the caramel mixture. Stir until caramel begins to thicken up - you want the caramel to be thin enough that it will easily coat your apples, but not so thin that it will run right off. If the caramel thickens too much simply put the pot back over the burner for 10 seconds or so to heat it up a bit.

I tilt my sauce pan so all the caramel forms a pool on one side, and use my other hand to dunk and twirl each apple until it is thoroughly coated with caramel. Place each apple on the parchment lined baking sheets and allow the caramel to cool and set.

Makes 6 - 8 caramel apples.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

  • I have to admit, I've never had a candy apple before but those look sooo good! yummy

    Jenn's Baking Chamber
  • I used to go up to Placerville as a kid to pick apples and enjoy the small town. I love how homey vibe that town has, and the apple farms are awesome. Now, I will gladly admit that I adore caramel apples but after looking at the ingredient list, I tried to stay away from them. But you've given me a nice excuse to dip away :) I think I'd go an extra step and dip them in chocolate ganache too.

    Amanda Boyce
  • I was wondering if one could sub-out the honey for agave nectar. Do you think the proportions would be the same? I just don't care for the taste of honey... Thanks!

    S
  • I too am a long-time admirer of your recipes. Your website is always giving me new ideas on how to make healthy choices a/b my diet. The beautiful food shots make it all more enticing as well. re: thermometres -- is it possible to use a meat one?

    Purely_C
  • I too am a long-time admirer of your recipes. Your website is always giving me new ideas on how to make healthy choices a/b my diet. re: thermometres -- is it possible to use a meat one?

    Purely_C
  • I make at least one of your recipes every week (I started reading just a few months ago so I have a very delicious backlog). THANK YOU. Can't wait to try this. I tried to shortcut carmel apples once, because I hate making candy. Turns out I hate bad carmel apples more... A bakery in San Diego makes them with gingersnap and chocolate biscuit crumbs. Yummy.

    jessie
  • I just made the caramel today! I wanted to make candies, rather than dip apples. I used chestnut honey and sprinkled the pieces with more salt. Delicious! The chestnut honey flavor (intense, burnt-sugar-like) did come through, which I liked a lot. I will say it took closer to an hour to get to 260 degrees, but the resulting slab of caramel was glossy, not too sticky, and pleasantly chewy. I may resoften a small slab for dipping apple slices later.

    EMZ
  • Hi Heidi, Following up on the question above regarding infrared thermometers, they read the surface temperature only. (I have some esoteric knowledge on this front because I used to work in the marketing department for one of the manufacturers.) Re: the comment from mrs. c I too wish more people would post after they tried the recipe. Obviously there's not much you can do about this Heidi!

    Lisa
  • Did anyone actually cook this caramel or taste it? I think the idea with recipes is to try them and then post your opinion.

    mrs.c
  • Oh stunning! Taking advantage of the apples of the season is a most, get your kids to the orchard and start picking!

    Columbia Foodie
  • Thanks for posting a recipe with ingredients we can pronounce! Is it possible to store them and if so, how and for how long?

    Dee
  • Love the idea of making a fruit dip with this recipe! I made the baked artichoke dip for the first time last night for an impromptu debate and project runway finale watching gathering at my place. It got great reviews from my girl friends and it was a snap to pull together quickly in between work and straightening up my apartment. A great healthy version to be repeated for sure. I made the ultimate veggie burgers earlier in the week but had a little trouble with them. The middles seemed uncooked with while the outsides were getting burnt. Need to try these again.

    TMonster
  • Love the idea of making a fruit dip with this recipe! I made the baked artichoke dip for the first time last night for an impromptu debate and project runway finale watching gathering at my place. It got great reviews from my girl friends and it was a snap to pull together quickly in between work and straightening up my apartment. A great healthy version to be repeated for sure. I made the ultimate veggie burgers earlier in the week but had a little trouble with them. The middles seemed uncooked with while the outsides were getting burnt. Need to try these again.

    TMonster
  • these are gorgeous! i love the use of simple, natural ingredients. i was also wondering if soy creamer would work?

    Chloe
  • Beautiful! The photo reminds me of our recent trip to Eve's Cidery in upstate New York. I love the harvest season.

    Anonymous
  • These look amazing! I just went apple picking this weekend and have been looking for new things to do with all that I brought home with me. Is there anyway to do this with soy cream/milk?

    Russell T
  • I was thinking about making toffee apples with local ingredients - and now i don't have to experiment with how that might work - thanks Heidi!

    sam
  • I fell asleep last night thinking I wanted to make caramel apples for a gathering with friends this weekend, and woke up to this post! Perfect - thank you for all of the beautiful recipes.

    Marie
  • How funny! My girls and I were in South Lake and Apple Hill last Sunday too. Yours is my mother's recipe for carmel and though I like Kraft squares, this recipe is easy and WORTH it. I made a mountain pie after returning home. Always inspired on Apple Hill.

    Betsy
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