Cinnamon Caramel Apple “Pumpkins”

September is in full swing…the train has carried the kiddies off to Hogwarts, the nights are getting crisp and cool, and the leaves are even starting to change colors. Somewhere. Not in the Virgin islands, where it is hotter than hot. Granted, there’s still those less hot days when it’s just a hurricane outside instead. That’s how it is, though. Every place has it’s signs of Autumn, and in the Islands, it just happens to be scorching heat and crazy wind and rain. :) But in some of my favorite places in the States, things are cooling down and working their way into the best time of year.

September is the gateway into Fall for me. It’s back to school, cool mornings with warm days, bright red leaves hiding out with the greens of summer, and apple orchard time. Last year, I was inspired to make candy apples in November, but this year, I really wanted a caramel apple. Like, now. I planned to go with some basic, but delicious and interesting, flavors, like…salted caramel and milk chocolate. Yumnumnumnum. But then you guys had to go and make my entire year when you loved my Star Trek cookies so much.

I can’t even express how fantastic my weekend was. It wasn’t just that you liked the cookies, though. It was also that you shared them with your friends, and you shared with me about your own Star Trek memories. I love it when you guys share your memories with me. :) I’m so honored to be entrusted with them! It was also that, when the cookies started getting featured in some pretty heavy places, you were all just as excited and happy for me as I was. Not that I ever get bored here (this is totally my Happy Place), but this weekend, your excitement and enthusiasm for a stranger you talk to on the interwebs sometimes really touched my heart, and it renewed my blogging excitement and inspired me to be more creative with my caramel apples.

I wanted to show my friends something that they haven’t seen before. Yeah, they’re still just caramel apples, and I couldn’t afford to dip them in gold, carve each and every one of your names into them, and ship them out around the world, but I still think they’re pretty cute.

Before I get into these apples too much, let me point out a few great things about them. First of all, I used to shy away from making caramel and candy apples, because they were too difficult. Wrong. They are SO easy. Whether you make them from scratch, like I have, or you save a bit of time using store bought caramels, they are E-A-S-Y, easy.

Second, they can also easily be vegan/dairy free, with only two minor substitutions. Yay! Plus, they’re naturally gluten free, so no one has to miss out. Double yay!! (I can’t guarantee vegan or gluten free licorice, though. Booo!)

Thirdly, and disappointingly, I can’t find more orange shoestring licorice anywhere, not even the interwebs. It only requires four pieces, about 10 to 12 inches each, per apple, but I can’t find any anywhere (mine came from a couple of licorice wheels in a grab bag of candy). Fortunately, black looks amazing also, and black shoestring licorice is everywhere!

Now we can get started on these, step-by-step.

First thing, wash your apples thoroughly with soap and warm water. The warm water will help melt the wax off of the apples, while the soap washes it away. It’s important to remove as much wax as possible, so that the caramel will stick to the apples better.

I chose to use green apples for these, because I love the tartness of the apple with the sweet caramel candy.

Next up, sand your apples gently with fine grit sandpaper (the apple on the left has been sanded). Again, this is a step that will help the melted caramel stick to the apples, rather than sliding right off. You can skip this step, but I find it very helpful.

Now the apples need their sticks. I found these fantastic, fat wooden skewers at Michaels. They’re made by Wilton, and the end that is in the apple is pointed. They worked beautifully and they were cheap (like, two bucks for two dozen).

Now that the apples are all ready to go, it’s time for the caramel. You only need brown sugar, unsalted butter (margarine for vegan), sweetened condensed milk (*vegan/dairy free readers, see note), corn or maple syrup, vanilla extract, and cinnamon (optional). I also like to add anywhere from 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of salt. Because I love salted caramel. A lot.

To make these more pumpkin-y, I used plenty of orange food coloring.

*There are several homemade recipes for vegan sweetened condensed milk, like this one. Or you can buy products like this one at the store. I’ve never tried either, but it’s great to know there are options out there.

The caramel is a pretty simple mix-it-up-and-cook-it-down candy recipe, so all of the instructions are below. One tip, be sure to stir pretty much constantly, and don’t cook too long or you’ll end up with hard caramel instead of chewy. It’s important not to pass 240 degrees F. I’ve found the perfect temperature to be just after 235 degrees (236 to 238). I really recommend a candy thermometer. You can get one pretty much anywhere now, and they’re quite inexpensive, and extremely helpful.

When dipping the apples, go in at about a 45 degree angle. You’ll coat more surface area of the apple that way, and you’ll also prevent air bubbles from forming on the bottom.

Slowly turn the apple while it’s submerged in the caramel, covering as much or as little of the apple as you like. I like to get them as covered as possible. :)

Once it’s coated, let it drip over the pan for a minute or so, to get rid of excess caramel.

When it’s ready, place the dipped apple on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or…

…have a little more fun. While someone holds the dipped apple (over the pan of caramel), wrap a length of orange (or black) shoestring licorice across the bottom of the apple and up the sides.

Continue wrapping licorice on the apple until you have four pieces attached, dividing the apple into eight wedges.

The licorice immediately sticks and looks so fun. If your licorice pieces are too long, just snip the extra bits off once the caramel has hardened up a bit.

Once the caramel set, I added some pretty green satin ribbon to the sticks, with a bow just above the apple. I think it gives the cutest impression of a stem and little leaves. :) Like I said, I added the ribbon after dipping the apples, but I recommend adding it before hand. Insert the sticks into your prepared apples, then wrap them with ribbon or twine before dipping. Unless you plan to fully submerge your apples in caramel, then everything will stay pretty.

I think these are so cute, and pretty. The ribbon adds a little elegance too them, and they are so perfect for Fall…not just for Halloween, but for all of Autumn!

Of course, these are just as lovely left plain. I love, love, love plain caramel apples, so I always make a few.

I also love junked up candy covered caramel apples too, though…so. Yeah.

The center apple is a caramel base, drizzled with milk chocolate, then sprinkled with plain M&M’s. Yum&Yum.

The left apple is…… Well, let’s take a closer look…

Yep. You guessed it. It’s a s’more caramel apple. Cause I’m obsessed with all things s’more lately. These have caramel first, obviously, then they’re rolled in crunched up graham crackers, drizzled with chocolate, and sprinkled with tiny, mini, itty bitty marshmallows. Lots of them.

Last, but not least, I made this simpler, more rustic looking apple. That happens to be my very favorite. It’s the one that I mentioned at the beginning of the post. You know, the “yumnumnumnum” one. I couldn’t resist, I needed this apple to happen. It’s just simple caramel drizzled with milk chocolate, but the secret is the little white crystals. Yeah, that’s sea salt. Yummy, fresh, crushed sea salt. These are so fabulous!

Ever since I was a little girl, I have hated eating caramel apples. Seriously, they’re just a pain. They’re so hard to bite into, you can’t get a good grip on them, they’re sticky, and you almost always end up with caramel on and up your nose. Too hard!

Problem solved. I always eat them like this now, but you’re gonna laugh when I tell you that it never occurred to me to slice the apple off the stick until about 3 months ago. I was visiting my sis in Minnesota, and we hit up Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. If you’ve nevr been to a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory:

1. Go.

2. They have SO many different varieties of caramel apples.

Anyway, we ordered an apple to share and the girl asked if we wanted it cut up. Ding, ding, ding!! Lightbulb! It was genius, I tell you. Genius! And I felt like a moron for never having thought of it before. Oh well. Now I know. :)

When I first had this idea, I seriously didn’t think much of it. I figured it was worth a shot. If it worked, YAY! If not, I still get caramel apples, YAY! Fortunately, it did work, and they are so much cuter than I anticipated. Fer rillz, I love these little fakers. Not only are they totally adorable, but they’re seriously delicious! Like, Imma-drool-over-one-for-breakfast delicious. Yay for things going right and making us smile. :) And yay for having the most awesome, amazing readers in the entire blogiverse! Enjoy!

Cinnamon Caramel Apples [Printable Version]
Makes 10 to 12 apples, depending on size

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks or 226 grams) unsalted butter (margarine for vegan/dairy free)
2 cups (510 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 cup (250 ml) light corn syrup or maple syrup
1 14-ounce can () sweetened condensed milk (vegan versions available)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Orange food coloring (optional)
Orange shoestring licorice (optional)

In a large saucepan set over medium high heat, melt the butter. Stir int he brown sugar and reduce heat to medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is incorporated. Add the corn syrup, mixing thoroughly, then stir int he cinnamon. Finally, add the sweetened condensed milk, and return to medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 235 degrees (113 C). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and food coloring (if using). Immediately dip apples.

Dip apples: Hold the skewered apple at a 45 degree angle as you dip it into the caramel. Rotate the apple until it is coated completely. Allow excess caramel to drip off then place the dipped apples on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Recipe, pumpkin design by Darla

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Comments

  1. Sherry Jones says

    Thank you for the step by step instructions on how to make caramel Apples. This is something that I have always wanted to try! I a friend of mine by in Tx. made them and use to buy them all the time! I will give a try! wish me luck!

  2. KariAnnM says

    Love the pumpkins! Too cute! Love caramel apples! But I also hate eating them, for those very reasons. I never thought to cut them with my wedger either!! Thanks for the tip!

  3. says

    your blogs always make my day and this is just the cutese idea my bf’s birthday is the day before halloween and one year i tried to get away from the halloween theme n he didnt like it. lol im sharing this page with all my friends you rock yay for making my day awsome!

  4. bttrflybabydoll says

    I’ve already bought the stuff I need to do caramel apples with the kids this year. I plan on taking them to the orchard as soon as we can. You have such a great imagination! I just love to see the spin you put on things. I’ve seen candy before, but making it look like a pumpkin is unique. So cute!

  5. says

    Have you ever had an apple pie caramel apple from Rocky Mountaing Chocolate Factory?? It’s A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. – but it’s also like $7 for one apple. It’s dipped first in caramel, then in white chocolate then rolled in a cinnamon sugar coating. Oh heavens it’s the best. I plan to make these this year and give them as gifts. I bet I can make at least half a dozen for $7.

  6. T says

    This blog is a happy place for me too! I don’t often bake, but I still LOVE looking at the beautiful and delicious things you make, and reading your background stories. When I do get the time to make one of your recipes, it turns always out beautifully! The devil’s food cookies are one of the Best Recipes Ever. (Only problem with them: I’d love to bring them to parties and work, but they disappear in this puzzling way! I have no idea what happens to them!)

    Thank you so much for doing this blog.

    T

  7. Dori says

    My goodness, woman! I’ve never found the need for one of those apple slicer corer things before…and now I find that I. Must. Have. One. Genius is right!

    Apples are about to hit our farmer’s market…I have so many recipes piling up but this one just went to the top of the pile! :)

  8. says

    Cut. Up. The. Caramel. Apple. GENIUS! I have the same problem with candy apples…I’m not sure if this would work the same way, but I am so freakin excited to make some caramel apples and cut them up! I am going to do it this weekend! Thanks! (BTW, cinnamon, salted, caramel apples? You’re a double/triple genius.)

  9. says

    These are seriously adorable! Each year for my birthday, because it lands so close to Halloween, we have always done some sort of pumpkin craft. I am absolutely going to do this is year! I can’t wait!

  10. Angela E says

    Those are so cute. And now I know how to make vegan caramel! Yay! I really miss that stuff. Also, I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this to you before but not all margarine is actually vegan. You might want to clarify that in your recipes (just saying vegan margarine is fine) so that someone trying out vegan cooking for the first time knows. It’s something I run in to a lot. It wouldn’t necessarily bother me if I wasn’t lactose intolerant. But whey (which is usually the culprit in margarine) is rather bad for me. People tell me all the time that something is safe for me to eat when they just used margarine instead of butter. And there’s actually only a few brands of vegan margarine since SMART Balance started putting fish oil in their margarine. Anyway, sorry for the huge comment. I really do love your blog and your creativity and I hope I haven’t come across all angsty and snarky. Just thought you might want to know :)

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  12. Lynn Dorney says

    *Hand hits forehead!* DuH! What a simple, great (and perhaps obvious (hanging head in shame)) idea for cutting up caramel apples. Thank you for sharing. I love caramel apples (there was a mom in my son’s preschool who made fabulous ones, but would never share the recipe), but I’m not sure about the cinnamon. Is the flavor very strong? Could I leave it out without destroying the taste of the caramel?
    Thanks, Lynn

    • says

      HI Lynn, In all honesty, I wasn’t 100% sure about the cinnamon either, but I ended up loving it. So much. :) It’s not terribly strong, and doesn’t overpower anything else. It’s just a nice, subtle compliment. But you can totally leave it out, too. I recommend adding 1/4 teaspoon of salt in place of it, just to punch up the caramel flavor a bit.

  13. danielle says

    So awesome. I am totally making these. I’m interested to know how using maple syrup in place of corn syrup tastes though…

    My orthodontist told me to cut up the caramel apples into small bites when I had braces as a kid so I didn’t miss out. ;)

    • says

      Hi Sam, I actually got my licorice in a random grab bag of a lot of different candy at a local candy store where I live. There was 2 “wagon wheels” of orange licorice in it and they inspired me to make these. If you can’t find orange, both black and green also look fantastic. Or you could even buy regular orange licorice and cut it into narrow strips. It’s a little more work, but I’ve done it, and it looks good, too. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. :(

    • says

      Hi Megan, It sounds like one of two things happened:

      Either you cooked the caramel slightly too long (easy to do), and as it cools, it’s thickening too much.

      Or it just got too cool before you used it.

      Fortunately, there is a fix. Just add hot water to the caramel, starting with just a half teaspoon at a time until it is a good consistency. Be patient, and don’t add too much water, too fast, or you’ll end up with runny caramel. I wouldn’t add more than 2 teaspoons to start with. Starting really small and adding it in half teaspoon increments will keep the caramel from becoming syrup. :) I hope this is helpful!

  14. says

    Hey I was wanting to make these as favors for a baby shower, I was wondering if I wrapped them in clear plastic after, would it stick to the caramel? And if so how long would they be able to stay without wrapping?
    Thanks so much!
    alissa

    • says

      Hi Alissa, If you’ve cooked the caramel properly,t hen the plastic shouldn’t stick to the apples in an unattractive way. It will stick a little, of course, but it shouldn’t pull the caramel off the apple or anything. I kept my apples uncovered for about 3 days before I decided that it was time for them to be eaten of tossed, but they don’t usually stick around that long. :)

  15. Abby says

    I made these tonight. My first time making Carmel and the recipe is great, very chewy, melt in your mouth stuff. Love the cinnamon! I will make these again before fall is over. The apples were a big hit with the fam.

  16. Nikki says

    These look great! I can’t find the shoelace licorice candy though, I found the ones that are twisted in red and black but even then ,it’s impossible to unwrap them from each other. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Hi Nikki, I’ve made these a couple more times since I posted them, and I had to use regular licorice that I cut into strips. I haven’t been able to find orange shoestring licorice again either. I bought fruit flavored licorice (Starburst, among others, sell orange, yellow, red, green, and more) and just sliced each licorice piece into strips. They aren’t as smooth as the shoestring, but they still work beautifully. If you can’t find orange, both green and black look great.

  17. Heather S. says

    I have never had a candy or caramel apple… But this year I’m obsessed with all things caramel-y and apple-y! We are having company come over in a few days… Perfect dessert for them! I am looking forward to making these!

  18. Jenny says

    Thanks for this recipe! I made them tonight, and the caramel is a-mazing. Love the cinnamon! The only problem I had was that I guess I didn’t remove enough of the wax off the apples, so by the last few, the caramel wouldn’t stick. At all. Total bummer! I think next time, I’ll dip the apples in boiling water to help loosen the wax before I scrub and sand them. I just poured all of the extra caramel in a pan, so we’ll see tomorrow what I can do with that. Thanks again!

  19. says

    Darla, I skipped by from Tea Diary…Hello.
    First, I must say that I loved your description of September because after growing up in the northeast I absolutely, without hesitation, believe that “September is the gateway to Autumn”. So you can imagine my chagrin when down here in the ‘not-so-virgin’ SE Texas I am totally and always thinking the 85-90 degrees should be much cooler – and where are the colored leaves for heaven’s sake?! Of course you would think that after 30 some years of living here I’d be used to it. But I will never give up the idea of a colorful, brisk, cool autumn. And when we do have those days I am most appreciative.

    Your caramel apples are wonderful! They look delightful, and I can imagine how good they must taste.
    My mother made them once a year for us, and they’d be ready and waiting for us after our return from school. I love that memory. I’ve never made them before, but you’ve inspired me. Thank you for this perfectly charming post, and have a glorious Autumn!

    Marianne

  20. Harmony says

    I made caramel apples from your recipe on Monday to hand out to trick-or-treaters. I must not have heated the caramel enough, because it went on thinly an made a lot of apples. But it was perfect! we had just the right amount, and the caramel is delicious! (We even have some left over that surely will be eaten.) Even my picky brother said he liked it! Thank you!

  21. Tasha says

    I have always hated eating caramel apples for the exact reasons you mentioned. I mean, they taste divine but they are too much work to eat. Slicing caramel apples before eating them? GENIUS!

    I am excited again and can now get amped up when I see recipes for caramel apples! (Ok, I never really *stopped* getting amped up…and drool-y….for the recipes, but I was never inspired to make them because the end result would be challenging to eat. No more!!!)

  22. Margarette says

    I made the caramel apples today and had a mess all over the kitchen. My problem was that I should have cooked the caramel mixture a little longer. I heated the caramel to 235 but should have gone on a degree or two as the caramel really didn’t want to stay on the apple as it was just a little too thin. So I rolled them several times in the caramel and stuck them in the refrigerator but they still puddled a lot. So after I finished with the apples I scrapped all the caramel that had puddled on the cookie sheet back into the sauce pan that I had cooked it in. Then I threw in a couple hand-fulls of pecan halves. After stirring them until they became more solid I dropped them on a Pam sprayed cookie sheet and stuck them into the freezer. After they were frozen I rolled them in melted milk chocolate chips and had turtles!

  23. Nikki says

    GREAT ideas!! I love the pumpkin’ shaped apple!! However, I have had an EXTREMELY hard time finding orange licorice candy! ='(

    Any suggestions of where I can find these?? I’ve read that twizzlers can be “unwrapped” and strings can be pulled out individually, however Twizzlers now come “sealed” (if you will) from the ends, which makes this impossible =/ .

    I would appreciate any advice :)

  24. Grace says

    Hi there! I know this post is a year old, but hopefully you can answer my question! Have you (or has anyone you know) made these using maple syrup instead of corn syrup? I wonder which has better result and a better flavor! Thanks!

    Grace

  25. Evelyn says

    These are great and look so easy to make. I’ve been wanting to make caramel apples for both my boys, and have a small taste of Fall, even though it’s almost 100 degrees here ALWAYS! :D I can’t wait to try this out with my lil’ guys, and have them decorate the candy apples to their liking. These will be so great to make for their birthday parties too (and my soon-to-be babyshower as well!) The ideas to use this is endless!!! Thank you!

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