Gourmet caramel apples are a sure sign that fall is here and that autumn is in full swing. Whether you’re participating in a fundraiser or visiting your favorite pumpkin patch it’s likely you see them each year. Making your own gourmet caramel apples at home is easy and fun! It’s not nearly as hard as you may think. Save yourself the hefty price tag and create a new fall tradition for yourself or loved ones. I’ll show you how.
Choosing your Apple Variety
Texture & Flavor
While any apple will work for making caramel apples, choosing the right variety can really impact the overall finished product.
For a good gourmet caramel apple you are going to want an apple that has a crisp flesh and a slightly tart flavor to balance out the sweet in the caramel and toppings.
Some varies you may want to consider are:
- honey crisp
- granny smith
- pink lady
The size of the apple is also something to consider with making gourmet caramel apples. The larger the fruit, the smaller the fruit to caramel ratio will be. Meaning, that a large apple with have less caramel per bite than a smaller apple would, simply because the volume to surface area changes with size. This is especially notable if you slice the apple, but even if you’re eating it whole off the stick, you don’t want to run out of caramel coating, and still have a good amount of apple left around the core.
You can play around with what size you like best, but for the sake of this recipe I’m going to suggest medium size apples for your gourmet caramel apples.
- 12 medium apples
- 2 (11 oz) bags of caramel bits, for melting
- 12 wooden popsicle craft sticks or skewers
- wax paper
- assorted toppings (see ideas list below)
- chocolate chips, almond bark, or melting waffers (for drizzle)
- disposable pastry bag or zip loc bag
Gourmet Caramel Apple Variations
Here are a few flavor combinations and topping ideas to inspire you.
S’mores: crushed graham crackers, mini or micro marshmallows, and mini chocolate chips or chocolate drizzle
Birthday Cake: multicolor sprinkles, almond bark drizzle (malted milk balls)
Snickers: chopped peanuts with chocolate drizzle or try chopped Snickers bars
Turtle: chopped pecans, mini chocolate chips, or dark chocolate drizzle
Grasshopper: creme de menth baking pieces, chocolate drizzle or curls
Dipped Pretzel: crushed salted pretzels, almond bark drizzle
Twix: shortbread cookie crumbles and chocolate chips with a chocolate drizzle
Prepare the Toppings
Prepare the dipping ingredients and toppings by doing any necessary chopping or unwrapping. Place each topping into its own bowl, large enough to dip or roll an apple.
Don’t worry about any drizzles at this time, they will be prepared and applied at the end.
Prepare the Apples
Wash and dry the apples thoroughly. Remove any stickers and stems.
Place a wooden stick or skewer into the center of each apple.
Melt the Caramels
Prepare the caramel according to the package directions. I have not found it necessary to use a double boiler to melt the caramels, but I am adamant about using the stove top, NOT the microwave.
Getting the texture just right takes some practice. Too hot or too much added liquid and the caramel will be thing and will slide right off the apple. Too cold or too thick and you get an uneven surface or not enough time to add toppings before the caramel hardens.
I try keeping the caramel just warm enough that it’s melted, but it will take a little experimenting over time to find out what works best for you.
Dip the Apples in Caramel
Dip the prepared apples in the melted caramel. Use a spoon to cover the entire apple with caramel. If your pan is getting low on caramel, try tipping it to the side and rolling the apple sideways in the caramel.
Once your apple is covered. Lift the apple and stick straight up and hold over the saucepan to allow excess caramel to drip off. Use a spoon or spatula to scrape around the bottom of the apple. As it cools, extra caramel will slide to cover this area, so removing the caramel now helps reduce a puddle of caramel at the bottom of the apple.
Roll or Dip in Toppings
Place on wax paper to cool. I suggest using a large baking sheet or cutting board so you can easily move the apples as needed. A baking sheet will also catch any stray sprinkles or candy pieces.
Dip & Sprinkle Option
Once your apple is covered in caramel, and excess has been scraped from the bottom, dip the bottom into nuts or chopped candy or cookies to cover the bottom. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Immediately sprinkle with any additional desired toppings.
You can choose to skip the dip step if you want to, and transfer your caramel covered apple directly to the wax paper, and either sprinkle with desired toppings or allow to cool before adding drizzle (below).
Once your apple is covered in caramel, and excess has been scraped from the bottom, roll the entire apple in nuts or chopped candy or cookies to cover. Transfer to wax paper on a cookie sheet.
Preparing the Gourmet Drizzle
If you decide to use multiple drizzles, for best results, just prepare and use one at a time. Once you’re done with the first drizzle, it can cool while you prepare the next.
Melting the Drizzle
In a disposable pastry bag (sandwich or quart size ziploc bags works well too) place approximately 1/2 cups of desired drizzle ingredient. Small chocolate chips or melting wafers can be put directly into the bag, but chocolate bars or almond bark will need to be chopped into small pieces for easy melting.
If using a zip loc bag, remove excess air and zip closed. If using a pastry bag, tie off the open end or place upright in a tall glass to avoid spills.
Place in the microwave for 30 second bursts. After each burst, use your hands to gentle smoosh and mix the melting drizzle together. Be careful to not burn yourself since it may get hot. Many melts will burn or seize up if they get too hot, so make adjustments for your microwave. Don’t make the bursts too long, and mix thoroughly.
Once the drizzle has completely melted, use a scissors to cut the tip off the pastry bag (or a corner off the ziploc). The larger the cut hole the thicker your drizzle will be.
Begin drizzling over your apples. You can choose to drizzle multiple layers in several colors or just one for an accent.
Drizzling Pattern Suggestions
Once you’ve applied your drizzle allow everything to cool and firm up. You could even choose to put the apples in a fridge for a short while to chill them completely, especially if your home is warm.
Remove from wax paper when ready to serve or gift wrap.
Gourmet caramel apples make a fantastic gift for teachers, co-workers, or friends. Here are a few gift wrapping ideas.
Set the bottom of the apple in a jumbo muffin liner and wrap in a large sheet of cellophane tied off with butchers twine.
Wrap in a cellophane bag and tie off with a ribbon.
Purchase caramel apple boxes like these.