Caramel Apples

We realize this post comes a little late to the game.  Anything involving fall activities should probably have gotten posted before Thanksgiving.  Oh well.  We will catch up soon enough.  We will have a Christmas post later this week – promise!  In the mean time, one final fall-flavored post should keep finish up any lingering cravings you had for falling leaves or corn mazes.

Few foods represent autumn as quintessentially as apples.   Their color mirrors the dying foliage and their crisp crunch matches the chill in the air.  Last year, we picked apples with Kevin’s family at an orchard in Michigan and they were absolutely delicious.  We had an awesome time doing it, at as well.  While we did not get a chance to pick them ourselves this year due to the wedding, that did not stop us from indulging in a few classic apple treats.  I made my first legit apple pie this year.  I adapted a favorite recipe for mini apple crisps into a full pan size.  And we did this:

Caramel Apples

I don’t know if I had ever eaten a caramel apple before this.  Now, I know my mom is going to read this and say “Of course you have!”  Let me quickly preempt that and rephrase: “I have no memory of ever eating a caramel apple until we made them a few weeks ago.”  I am not really sure what prompted our desire to make these.  Then again, I am not sure what prompts any of our ideas.

I know our sticks are a little long here.  However, we were not about to about to buy 100 popsicle sticks just to make a few caramel apples. We made do with some kebab skewers we had around the house (another product you can’t buy in a quantity less than 100).  Resourcefulness, folks.

While in retrospect, I realize it may have been easier to buy caramel pre-made, the thought honestly never crossed my mind.  As with most things we do, especially in the kitchen, we tend to go big or go home.  In this case, that meant making our own caramel.  I believe Kevin’s words when he realized my plan were, “You can make caramel at home?”  You absolutely can and should!  It tasted far better than any store bought caramel I’ve had.  It turned out to be surprisingly easy, too.  With a little help from Betty Crocker, we had no problems.

Caramel ingredients (clockwise from top): 1 cup sugar, splash of vanilla, 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1/8 tsp salt, 1 can condensed milk

We combined everything and stuck it in a saucepan, medium-low heat.  It had to be closely monitored to make sure it didn’t burn.  As you can see below, Kevin and I took turns stirring.  He’s a great sous chef.  Good ol’ Betty said the caramel would take about 45 minutes.  Ours took over an hour; I attribute that to the fact that I kept the heat pretty low for the first half hour.  I’ll be honest…stirring that caramel got very boring.

After what seemed like an entire evening of stirring, we finally ended up with a beautifully colored caramel.  Now, since we don’t have a candy thermometer  Betty suggested putting a drop into a cup of cold water and expecting it to form a little squishy caramel ball as a test of readiness.  We tried that and it didn’t really seem like a good method.  The water just got cloudy and I could never fish the little caramel drop back out to test its squishy-ness.  So, we pretty much just went by sight, smell, and viscosity.  Once we were sure it was ready (read: once we couldn’t stir that stuff for one more minute), we took the caramel off the heat and started dipping.

Dipping the apples was a little tricky in the saucepan, but I didn’t want to risk the caramel cooling by the time we got it into a different container.  You have to move fast to keep it from hardening.

We crushed some nuts to dip our apples in as well.  We went with a mix of pecans and walnuts, because that’s what we had in the cupboard.

As you can see in the picture at the top of the post, our caramel apples did not necessarily turn out to be the most beautiful, but they sure tasted good.  Because it was a little difficult to dip the apples in the saucepan (ok, and also because we wanted every last drop of that sugary goodness), we used a spoon to top off the apples with the remaining caramel.  They were crazy messy, crazy filling, and crazy delicious.  As you can see, Kevin was pretty pleased.

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