I love autumn! It is my favorite season of the year. Bright sunny days, cool nights, pumpkins, trees changing color, football games & tailgates, the World Series, and apples. Luscious, healthy, crunchy apples! But today is Chocolate Monday, so how can I meld the two? With Halloween right around the corner, I know you are going to love today’s fun treat, Chocolate-Dipped Caramel Apples! It is the perfect autumn dessert. Keep it simple or you can turn it into a fun project for a children’s party – one where even the adults will enjoy the results!
When you are choosing your apples look for very fresh ones that are a little on the tart side. This will balance the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate. The crunchy flesh of the fruit will also offset the soft texture of the candy. Crabapples or other mini apples are adorable and make great table decorations. Remember that if you wouldn’t want to eat them plain, you won’t like them even with their candy coatings. By making your own caramel and using really good chocolate you turn this old-fashioned childhood delight into a sophisticated confection.
For the simplest application, make your caramel and place melted chocolate in heatproof bowls. Dip the apples first in the caramel, let set up and then dip in chocolate. Keep in the refrigerator. But if you want it to look a little fancier, you can dip them in the caramel and drizzle with the chocolate. You can use a combination of white, milk, and dark chocolates for variety. I also like the idea of serving freshly sliced apples with small bowls of caramel and chocolate and letting your guests dip or drizzle to their heart’s content.
For a party you can create a Caramel Apple “Bar” with bowl of various ingredients that you roll the apples in. Some of my favorites are mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, mini M&M’s, mini marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, crushed Oreo cookies, sprinkles, coconut, jimmies, crushed toffee bits, granola, etc. This would be a really fun idea for a Halloween party or a fall birthday party.
If you want to have even more fun, you can even “paint” with the chocolate. For example, if you wanted a fun table decoration for Halloween, dip the apples in caramel and then in white chocolate. Using melted dark chocolate, paint on a Jack o’ Lantern eyes, nose, and mouth. You can also use chocolate as “glue” to attach decorations. Can you imagine how fun this could be! You can make these a few days ahead and store in the refrigerator. I would much rather get these decorated apples than to have to dunk for them in a bucket of water!!
If you come up with other fun ideas, I would love to hear about them. You can leave a comment after the recipe! I hope that you have loads of fun being creative and getting all messy with caramel and chocolate – the best part of Chocolate Mondays!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Two of the most versatile and useful utensils in the kitchen are heat-resistant silicone spatulas and good old-fashioned wooden spoons. I use both all the time and they are always on my counter in a large container so I can grab them quickly. Having different shapes and sizes also gives me options that fit every situation I come across.
Kitchen Skill: Keeping Caramel Smooth
When you are making homemade candy, your arch nemesis is sugar crystals! Once you have melted the sugar completely, if you reintroduce even a couple of grains of sugar (sugar crystals), the entire batch of candy will re-crystallize. To keep this from happening, recipes tell you to “wash down the sides of the pan” with a wet pastry brush or paper towel. I prefer the brush because you have more control with it. Keep a bowl of water beside the stove and occasionally wipe the sides of the pan, just above the boiling candy, with the pastry brush dipped in water. If you happen to get any of the boiling sugar on the brush, wash it thoroughly, dry, and re-wet it before continuing.
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 to 8 small to medium size cold apples
- 1 lb chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 5 to 6 oz chopped toasted nuts, optional
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey and salt in a medium-sized heavy bottom saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Rinse the sugar crystals and syrup from the inside of the pot with a wet pastry brush or a wad of paper towel dipped in water. Just remove the crystals, don’t dip the brush in the boiling candy! Cover the pan and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Having a lid on also helps keep the sides clean. Rinse the spoon or spatula between every use. Uncover the pot and wash the sides once more.
- Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot without letting it touch the bottom. Cook, uncovered, without stirring until the mixture reaches 305°F, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer and keep it hot until needed.
- When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn the heat off. Stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. The temperature will drop dramatically. Turn the heat back on under the pot and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently, typically around medium heat.
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the temperature comes back up to 250°F, about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer the caramel to a smaller pot or heatproof bowl deep enough to dip the apples. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Impale each apple on a stick. Make sure you have it pushed deeply into the apples. The last thing you want is the apple to fall off while you are dipping it! Holding by the sticks, dip apples, one at a time, into the caramel, allowing the excess to flow back into the pot. Set the apple on a baking sheet covered with a silpat or waxed paper. Repeat to coat each apple.
- If the caramel gets too cool while you are dipping, it will slide entirely off the apple! If necessary, reheat gently (without simmering), and then continue to dip. Let the dipped apples set for at least 30 minutes or until caramel is cool and firm, or you can refrigerate them.
- Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring frequently until almost entirely melted. Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted and warm, not hot. Dip each apple into the chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to flow back into the bowl. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Set the dipped apples on a tray lined with a silpat or waxed paper. Refrigerate to set the chocolate, keep the apples fresh and crisp, and keep the chocolate from discoloring.
- The apples can be eaten off the sticks or sliced into wedges to serve at the table.
- Yield: 6 to 8 regular-sized apples or up to a dozen small apples