Looking for something to do on a fall afternoon that yields delicious results? Try making these chocolate-caramel apples.
I’ve never been a fan of store-bought caramel apples because they are gooey, too sweet, and so big that it’s hard to bite into one, never mind finish it. But if you choose small apples and cover the messy caramel with a hard coat of dark chocolate, those problems are solved, and you have something truly special.
Tips for Perfect Results
Start with excellent apples. They must taste great and be firm. Honey Crisp and Granny Smith are readily available, but if you have access to heirloom varieties, have fun with these! I prefer small apples that I can eat in one sitting, and I also recommend choosing ones with a stem that is long enough to hold. That way you don’t have to puncture the skin of the apple with a stick or skewer which will hasten your treat’s demise. In these photos, you’ll see Cornish Gillifeather apples that weigh between 3 and 4 oz each.
Refrigerate the apples for at least one day to make the caramel stick better.
If you don’t want to make your own caramel, you don’t have to. Buy the best-quality caramels you can find or caramel bits, melt in the microwave, and you’re done. But homemade caramel will elevate your results!
If you don’t want to use corn syrup in your caramel, you can make your own invert sugar. Look for a recipe that includes sugar, water, and cream of tartar.
For the chocolate, of course I’m going to recommend using Tangle Chocolate because its fruitiness goes beautifully with apples. I’d use Tangle’s Hot Chocolate from the tin rather than our slivers of chocolate because the hot chocolate is more economical for this use. You don't have to use Tangle Chocolate, however. Just remember that you might want to offset the sweet caramel with a less-sweet, dark chocolate.
If the caramel doesn’t go on perfectly, it’s not a problem. The chocolate will cover up any imperfections. I do suggest that you trim off the excess caramel that will pool at the bottom of the apple as it cools. Kitchen shears are perfect for this job.
Similarly, don’t worry about covering every inch of apple skin with caramel and chocolate. It can be beautiful to see some green or blush peeping through around the apple stem.
If you have chocolate left over, you can take a spoonful and drizzle it over the apples for a special touch, or you can make yourself some hot chocolate to enjoy while the apples cool and harden!
Note: these are made to be eaten within a day or two, because I’m not including instructions on how to temper the chocolate which would make the chocolate retain its even shine for longer. That’s for another day!
Best Chocolate Caramel Apples
For each small (3-4 oz) apple, you need:
About 1 oz caramel, plus extra to make dipping easier. I started with 8 oz and had 2 oz left over after dipping 6 apples.
About ¾ oz chocolate, plus extra to make dipping easier. I started with 6 oz and ended up with 1 ½ oz left over after dipping 6 apples.
Optional: chopped nuts or other goodies for decorating
- Line a baking sheet or plate with parchment.
- Prepare the caramel by either melting store-bought bits or by making your own (recipe is at the end). Put the melted caramel in a small bowl or pan.
- Dip each apple in the caramel. You may find it easiest to tip the bowl or pan to one side and spin the apple in the caramel while holding onto the apple stem. Let the excess caramel drip off, then set the apple on the parchment paper.
- Cool apples in the refrigerator for about an hour or until the caramel “sets.”
- Trim off any excess caramel from the bottom of each apple.
- Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
- Dip each apple in the chocolate in the same way you did the caramel, letting the excess drip off before placing on the parchment paper. Have a basting brush ready to fill in any missed spots; any brush marks will not show when the apples are dry. If you’re adding any extra toppings, including a drizzle of extra chocolate, do it now.
- You can serve these as soon as the chocolate hardens, or you can twist them in parchment or decorative wax paper to enjoy later!
Best Mouthwatering Homemade Caramel
1 cup sugar
½ cup corn syrup
6 T butter
⅛ t salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 t pure vanilla extract
- Because you will have some caramel left over, first prepare something to hold what you don’t use on the apples. Choose a small container such as a loaf pan, spray it with cooking spray, and press a piece of parchment in. (The cooking spray helps hold the parchment in place.)
- Put a good sized saucepan, at least 2 quart, over medium heat, add sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and half of the cream.
- Bring to a boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.
- Microwave the remaining cream for about a minute until it’s quite hot, and gradually add it to the boiling mixture. You want to make sure that the mixture stays boiling the whole time.
- Continue to let the mixture boil while stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to walk away; the sugar can easily burn.
- You can test if the caramel is ready in two ways: a candy thermometer will read 240-245 degrees Fahrenheit, or you can use the ice water test. For that method, just fill a glass with ice water, and when the mixture has boiled for long enough to change color, drizzle a little bit into the ice water. It will be ready when it holds together in a soft ball.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Expect some sizzling!
- Fill a small bowl with the caramel for apple dipping, and pour the rest into your parchment-lined container. Don’t scrape clean the sides of the saucepan; the color of the caramel stuck to the sides and bottom will most likely be a little different and might be distracting, and there may be some crystallized sugar, not the texture you want, on the sides of the saucepan as well.
- Put the container of leftover caramel in the refrigerator to let the caramel harden for up to 8 hours before cutting it into squares or whatever shape you want.
- Continue with the instructions above for the apples.