Dipping caramel apples is such a fall thing to do. I remember using those caramel wraps as a kid, but those will no longer do. I will not lecture someone who goes for the other stuff, but I prefer dark caramel and I really like sea salt caramel. That’s like saying I like money, right? Who doesn’t?
While I was mourning the loss of a gelato place in town that had the best sea salt caramel gelato, the idea for making these apples popped into my head. Some people might start with regular caramel for the first attempt, but I decided to go big and turn the recipe into one for dreamy sea salt caramel. I am surely not the first with this idea, but I felt inventive and wanted to make them while my love affair with fall was still in full-force.
This little project has a crafty component, if you wish. You can dig through sticks in your yard or around the neighborhood, looking for interesting ones. Marc’s pile of sticks that he collects for kindling really came in handy for this one. The recipe is a bit easier (and more fun!) with another set of hands, if you have a caramel-loving friend or a top-notch husband, but you can handle this on your own, too.
Nothing bad could come from these ingredients.
Caramel at a rolling boil.
The recipe below might seem a bit long and involved, but I wanted to be specific if you had any questions along the way. It’s fun and worth it, I promise!
Recipe: Sea Salt Caramel Apples
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 12 apples
1 lb. dark brown sugar
16 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 C. light corn syrup
1/3 C. pure maple syrup
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. dark molasses
1 t. ground light gray sea salt (not packed)
12-6″ tall and 1/4″ thick (or a little thicker) sturdy sticks
12 honey crisp apples
ground light gray sea salt for decorating
4 T. whipping cream, if needed
1. The night before, prepare your apples and sticks. If you get your apples from the grocery store, clean with a sink full of warm water with 1 T. lemon juice and 1 T. baking soda. Scrub with a fruit/vegetable brush or a washcloth to remove any wax. Apples from an orchard will not need this step. Cut sticks into 6″ lengths and wash with soapy water. Let apples and sticks dry overnight. When the sticks are dry, the ends will be need to be sharpened to easily insert in the apples. Using a sharp knife with quick strokes, sharpen the bottom 1″ of the sticks, rotating every few seconds until it comes to a sort of point. It doesn’t need to be pencil sharp, but enough to easily pierce the apple. Pierce all twelve apples with the sticks by pressing the sticks into the middle of the top of the apple. Grip the bottom-middle of the stick and press in, grabbing from the top can cause the stick to break.
2. Things to have ready: Prepared apples with sticks in them, 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper, a candy thermometer, a large metal bowl, a small bowl for testing caramel and a small bowl with water and a pastry brush.
3. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large and heavy saucepan that is at least 3 inches deep. Stir ingredients with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until sugar has dissolved. To test, put a bit of the caramel into a small bowl, allow to cool a bit (it’s really hot) and rub between your fingers to see if sugar crystals remain. If so, continue to cook until caramel is smooth when tested, about 15 minutes total. Use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan where any caramel that bubbles up.
4. When caramel is smooth, put the candy thermometer in your pot and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook caramel at a rolling boil until the thermometer registers 236 degrees F. Stir constantly but slowly with a wooden spoon and occasionally brush down the sides of the pan with the wet pastry brush, about 12 minutes total. Carefully pour caramel into a large metal bowl and submerge your thermometer into the caramel. Cool, without stirring, until it reaches 200 degrees F, about 20 minutes.
5. Holding the stick, dip 1 apple into the 200 degree F caramel, submerging all but the very top of the apple. Lift apple out allowing excess to drip back in the bowl and hold upright for a few seconds to let it set. Place coated apples on the parchment, leaving space in between to allow for any pooling of caramel. If caramel becomes too thick for dipping, put metal bowl over low heat and add a few tablespoons of whipping cream to thin it out. Stir until the caramel has thinned. The metal bowl will heat up, so protect your hands with oven mitts.
6. Place baking sheets with caramel apples into the refrigerator to chill for 15-20 minutes. Get a shallow bowl and grind your gray sea salt to get ready for when the apples have chilled a bit. Remove apples from refrigerator and you can use your hands to press any pooled caramel back over the apple. I personally like a little bit of pooling. Holding the stick horizontally over the shallow bowl, turn and with your other hand sprinkle ground sea salt over the caramel coating. Place apple back back on the parchment and repeat with remaining apples. Put baking sheets with apples back in the refrigerator to chill and set, about 1 hour. Chill up to one week. After apples have chilled you can take them straight from the refrigerator and slice into wedges or let them sit out a few minutes and eat straight off the stick.