Want to see a tableful of people light up like a bunch of 8 year olds?
Serve caramel apples for dessert. Depending on how chill your crowd is, caramel apples can be an awesome—and totally unexpected—way to end to a Fall or Winter dinner party.
I know, I know. Most people associate caramel apples with Halloween. As far as I’m concerned, they’re sweet, sticky fun on a stick that you can enjoy all year round.
Party favors or hostess gifts
Caramel apples also make great party favors for guests to take home.
Once they’re completely cool, pop them into a cellophane baggie, tie with a little ribbon, and…voila! You’ve got yourself a neat little treat to go. They also make charming hostess gifts. They blow the standard bottle o’ wine out of the water.
These caramel apples aren’t your average, lipstick red, tooth-breaking candy apple. They’re half-robed in velvety, homemade caramel, then rolled in fragrant sliced almonds.
The best part? They’re really (like, really, really) easy to make, impressive to eat, and you can get super creative with your flavor combinations.
Double up for full coverage
I only half dipped these little guys. If you want to coat the whole apple, double the amounts for the caramel & coatings.
6 other flavor combos for caramel apples
As far as flavors go, these little babies are pretty traditional caramel apples. Try the following:
1. Asian Spiced Caramel Apples
Use ripe Asian pears. (Not quite an apple, but it’ll work just fine.) Add 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder to the caramel at the end.
2. Mexican Chocolate Apples
Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne to the caramel at the end. Roll in miniature dark chocolate chips.
3. Pumpkin Chai Spice Apples
Add 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cardamom and ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon ground clove to the caramel at the end. Roll in toasted pumpkin seeds.
4. Toffee Apples
Instead of toasted almonds, roll the caramel apples in chopped Heath bars.
5. Chocolate Peppermint Apples
Add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract to the caramel at the end (in addition to the vanilla). Roll in crushed peppermint hard candies and mini chocolate chips.
6. Candy Bomb Apples
Double the recipe for caramel and coat the whole apple. Instead of sliced almonds, roll in a mixture of your favorite candies (Think M&Ms, chopped snickers, chopped Twix, etc.).
You see where I’m going with this. Go crazy!
Tips for making great homemade caramel apples
- Get everything prepped in advance. Trust me on this one. Once you make the caramel, the timer is ticking as it starts to cool. You’ll want to work as quickly as you (safely) can.
- Get creative with your sticks. Try whole cinnamon sticks, instead. Or, decorate your sticks with food-safe materials.
- Get creative with what you roll them in. Try different toasted nuts, mini pretzels, sprinkles, chopped candy or firm cookies, sanding sugar, etc.
- Drizzle dipped apples with melted chocolate to take them over the top.
- Most folks eat them right off the stick, but there’s nothing wrong with yanking out the stick and slicing the apple into wedges.
What size apples should you get?
Good question. And there’s not really one single answer.
Consider your audience. I’d use larger apples for hostess gifts or for kids (of any age). I’d use smaller apples if I were planning on serving them at a dinner party for dessert. Really big apples are a blast—but can be totally awkward to eat unless you cut them up.
What kind of apples should you get?
I used Macoun this time. Cortland would be great, too. Or, try Granny Smith apples. Their tartness can be a great contrast to sweet coatings.
Basically, any firm, crisp apple will work. Check out this site for a ridiculous amount of info on different apple varieties.
How do you store caramel apples?
Store caramel apples in the fridge for up to a week. (Let them sit out on the counter to come up to room temp before eating.) Or, keep them well covered on the counter for 3 days. Personally, I keep mine on the counter.
Caramel Apples w/Toasted Almonds
6 large Macoun or Cortland apples (or 12 small)
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons dark corn syrup
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Makes about 6 large caramel apples or 12 small ones
Clear space for your assembly line
This sounds silly, but it will save you a bunch of zipping around when you’re dipping your apples. And when there’s a pot of boiling caramel in play, that’s a good thing.
Line a sheet pan with waxed paper and set aside. Leave enough room for your apples and bowl of nuts (and anything else you’re using). Set out a potholder or trivet for the caramel pot.
Stick it to your apples
Rinse and dry your apples really well. Remove and discard the stems (or leave them in if they’re on the small side). Grab your sticks.
Press a popsicle stick down deeply into the center of each apple. How do you know when it’s deep enough? Pick it up and see if it feels right. You want to make sure that it’s in firmly enough that you’re not going to lose your apple easily.
Stick it to all your apples. Set them aside.
Toast the nuts
Grab your sliced almonds. I keep mine in the freezer (helps ’em stay fresh when you don’t use ’em every day). Toss them right into a large frying pan. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring often so they don’t burn.
They’re done when the nuts are lightly browned and very fragrant.
Set them aside in a bowl to cool.
Make the caramel
Do this last. Seriously.
If you’re getting creative with your other toppings, be sure that they’re all prepped and ready to go before you start the caramel. Because when it’s ready, you have a limited amount of time to coat the apples before the hot caramel starts to cool and harden.
Put the white and brown sugars in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot. I usually use a 3-quart pot. You want a pot with high sides…you’ll see why in a minute.
Toss in the water, dark corn syrup, cream, and butter.
Mix to combine. Set the pot on the stove over medium heat.
Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter completely melts and the caramel starts to bubble at the edges.
When the caramel starts to bubble, stop stirring and clip a candy thermometer inside the pot.
Let it cook like this, uncovered, without stirring, until it reaches 330 degrees F (CHECK THIS).
When it hits 330 degrees F, yank the pot off the stove.
Add the salt and vanilla extract (and any other ground spices, if you’re monkeying around with the recipe) now and stir to combine.
The vanilla will make the caramel boil up furiously, which is why you want to use a pot with relatively high sides. It will subside after a minute.
Dip the apples into the caramel
Grab your apples firmly by their stick. Roll the bottom half in the hot caramel. Be careful, sugar burns are nasty.
When the bottom is half coated, let the excess drip back into the pot.
Plunk the apple down into your bowl of toasted almonds. Roll it around in the almonds to coat. (If you’re having a problem getting them to stick, press them on gently with your paws.)
Set your finished apple on your prepared pan. Repeat with the rest of your apples. If you’re not fast enough and your caramel starts to harden up, pop it back on top of the stove over VERY low heat, stirring constantly until it’s molten again. Let the apples sit on the counter until the caramel has completely set.
How do you like them apples?
So, how do you like your candy apples? Love ’em? Hate ’em? What’s your favorite kind? Leave a comment on this post and let us know!