A week ago I was at the last farmers market of the year (tear!). An apple merchant was selling caramel apples. I bought one.
It was divine.
A crisp, tart apple enrobed in thick, chewy caramel.
I regretted buying only one, seeing as I had to share with my chauffeur (a.k.a. my boyfriend, who prefers to wait in the car while I go to the market - absolutely baffling behavior. Who would wait in the car when you could be stroking pumpkins and sniffing apples and admiring all the colours of tomatoes?!)
Needless to say, I closely monitored the size of every bite he took.
When all that was left was a popsicle stick and a few apple seeds, I knew that more was non-negotiable.
This is a painless, foolproof version of caramel.
Usually made with just sugar and a bit of water to dissolve it, caramel can run into a number of problems - namely crystallization and pungent burnt sugar.
This recipe uses sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and corn syrup. You bypass all the potential failures, and the result is heavenly.
It will surely be moonlighting as warm caramel sauce for ice cream in the near future...
Tips for success?
Wash and dry your apples really well, and choose a variety that doesn't appear waxy, or the caramel may not stick.
Chilling the apples prior to dunking them helps the caramel grab hold and create a nice thick coat. Allowing the caramel to cool off for 5 minutes before dipping helps in this regard, too. And if you have extra caramel once your apples are gone, you can double dunk...
Finally - be careful. Hot sticky sugar. 'Nough said.
10 medium apples, or 12 small
10 (or 12) popsicle sticks, chopsticks or lollipop sticks
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1 can (300 mL/10 oz*) sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped OR 2 tsp vanilla extract
*In the US, most cans of sweetened condensed milk are 14 oz (vs. 10 oz in canada), so you'll have some leftover to enjoy in your tea/coffee!
1. Wash apples, and dry very well with paper towels or a clean dishtowel. Insert a popsicle stick into the stem end of each, pushing it until it is about 2/3 of the way into the apple. Refrigerate apples. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugars, butter, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup and salt. Stir until butter is melted. Bring to a boil (whisking constantly), then reduce heat to low. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until caramel reaches 235 degrees F/112 degrees C on a candy thermometer. If you don't have a candy thermometer you can tell when the caramel is done when it has thickened, deepened in colour, and lots of bubbles are rising to the surface. If you drop a a spoonful into cold water, it will form a soft ball. Remove from heat, and cool 5 minutes.
3. Holding by the popsicle stick, swirl each apple in the caramel, while tilting the pot. Let excess caramel drip back in. Place apples on the prepared baking sheet. Cool about 30 minutes before enjoying. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to store.