Apparently I’ve developed a reputation in certain food circles for developing EXCEEDINGLY complicated recipes. Which both baffles and amuses me. I mean, on the one hand I get it, as I do have a habit of reaching for a wide variety of whole grain flours (my gluten free ombre cake has seven different flours, not to mention two or three different binders and two different types of cocoa powder). But I do that because I think that’s how you’ll get the best results possible. On the other hand, I DO occasionally make the simple recipe (come one people, my Wordless Recipe series is told with photos! PHOTOS people!). But at the end of the day I get that not everyone wants to track down crazy flours, insanely obscure sweeteners and ludicrous ingredients that can only be bought on the internet. Which is why I present to you the easiest, simplest, most basic recipe for how to make caramel apples ever. EVER. Believe me when I say that ANYONE can do this. These are easy caramel apples. And it does NOT involve pre-made store bought candies. It’s completely from scratch! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
The problem I’ve always had easy caramel apple recipes is they usually involve going to the grocery store and buying bags of caramel chew candies. I get the temptation. You don’t have to worry about cooking sugar on the stove, something that I know scares the heck out of most people. The fear of burning the sugar (or worse, burn yourself) is a huge leap to make. Plus when you have those candies around, it’s kind of fun to pop one in your mouth as you unwrap them for the caramel apples. One for the bowl, one for you. Everyone’s happy!
But here’s the thing. Turn the bag over and look at the ingredients list which includes strange things like partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, calcium carbonate, lipolyzed butter fat and the nebulous vague “artificial flavor”. Really now. Do you want to be feeding your kids that? But even worse than what’s in the caramels is what’s on the outside. Yep, I’m talking those REALLY annoying plastic wrappers. How many times have you had to pry those suckers open, as they stick the caramel, only to have it tear and find that there’s that annoying piece of plastic stuck to the candy that you can’t remove? Not to mention how my fingers cramp when I’m unwrapping more than two at a time. Do you really want to go through that AGAIN?
Thankfully I got your back. Making caramels for dipping apples is easy when you have a microwave and a microwave safe mixing bowl. You probably even have most of the ingredients in your cupboard, which means you don’t have to make that special trip do the store just to make caramel apples. Spontaneous caramel apples without the finger cramping – now that’s something to write about. Seriously folks. Go make these now.
Caramel Apple Recipe – The Easiest, Simplest, Basic Recipe, All Made from Scratch! (and naturally gluten free too!)
By Irvin Lin
The secret to making easy caramel apples is the microwave. Yep, you can make caramel sauce by microwaving sugar, water and a little corn syrup together. It’s painless and the microwave does all the work for you. One thing to note, don’t try this method with organic sugar. You have to use plain old regular refined white sugar. The impurities left in the organic sugar (and what makes it so beige) burns before the sugar can caramelize. But really, you’re making caramel apples. This isn’t quinoa people. Embrace them for what they are.
Microwave caramel technique adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
4 medium sized apples at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) white granulated sugar (see note above)
2 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 sticks (popsicle sticks, disposable chopsticks, thick skewers, or even clean dried twigs that you’ve scavenged from the ground because you saw how cool they looked in Matt Armendariz’ blog)
Optional toppings (use 1/4 cup per apple)
chopped dried cranberries
crushed mini pretzels or pretzel crisps crackers
chopped dark chocolate
crushed ruffle potato chips
1. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper, wax paper or silicon silpat. If your apples are super shiny they are probably coated in wax. Scour and clean them with hot water and a scrubby sponge to get the wax off. This will help the caramel stick. Dry and stab each apple with a stick of your choice (I went with disposable chopsticks – ‘cuz I’m Asian and I’m keepin’ it real). Place the toppings of your choice in separate bowls.
2. Place the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Stir with a fork until all the sugar is wet and there are no dry spots. Put the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 5 minutes. Pay attention to the bowl in the microwave starting around 45 seconds before it ends. Watch the sugar (it’ll be bubbling) and stop your microwave once the liquid sugar starts to brown. It took my microwave the entire 5 minutes for me to see browning, but some microwaves are more powerful than others. If you aren’t seeing browning, cook for an additional 30 seconds (paying really close attention to the sugar in the microwave until you see brown).
3. Once you see the sugar start to brown, take it out of the microwave (carefully) and put it on the counter. Swirl the sugar around in the bowl, and watch it magically start to darken. Keep swirling the sugar (don’t mix it with a fork or anything, just pick up the bowl with a hot pad or mitten and swirl the liquid around a bit so it darkens evenly). Once the sugar darkens to a deep chestnut brown (similar to a dark rum or a nice barrel-aged bourbon) add the butter and stir it in carefully. The caramel will steam up. Once the butter has melted add the heavy cream and salt, stirring carefully (as it will also steam up). Continue to stir for two or three minutes, until the caramel has cooled a bit and thickened slightly. To test if the caramel is ready, dip a spoon into the caramel and lift it up. If the caramel coats the back of the spoon without sliding off completely the caramel is ready.
4. Take the first apple and dip it in the caramel. You might have to roll it around a bit and tip the bowl to cover as much of the apple as you want. As you pull the apple out of the bowl, scrape excess caramel off the bottom of the apple with a fork. Dip the bottom of the caramel apple in whatever optional topping you want. Set on the lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining apples. If the caramel starts to harden by the time you get to the fourth one, place the bowl back in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. If you want to make more apples, don’t double this recipe but just make another batch of caramel with a clean bowl. The caramel cools fast enough that dipping eight apples is tough to do.
Makes 4 caramel apples.
If you like this caramel apple recipe, check out these apple recipes from around the web: