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.
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!
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:
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
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