Fall has a distinct feel in Minnesota. Especially the northern part of the state.
It's not just the changing leaves, although there's no denying how beautiful they are…
There's just something about the angle of the sun and the light. When we move into the autumn season, sunny days take on a golden feel. Regardless of the temperature, it suddenly just feels like fall.
And fall means so many good things! Sweaters and boots top my own list of favorites, but there's also all the activities!
I love apple picking and making homemade apple pie filling. It's so fun to visit the pumpkin patch and carve a jack-o-lantern with one of the many free pumpkin carving patterns. And who doesn't love Halloween with homemade baby costumes and adorable costumes with tutus?
Now I have a new favorite fall recipe to share. It's so good, I really can't believe I've never written about it before!
Apples and caramel say “fall” more than any other foods, and I can't think of anything better than caramel and apples together! I have the best caramel apples recipe, and the fun really does come in the decorating.
Note that this is an easy caramel apples recipe without wrapped candy caramels. I've made those caramel apples and I don't like them. I also feel like you're not saving time or money by using wrapped caramels, and this recipe just tastes so much better!
Trust me, you really need to make these hand dipped and decorated caramel apples. They'll excite any child you give one to, and I promise, other adults will be so impressed!
How to Make Caramel Apples without Wrapped Candies
I have a few secrets for making the best hand-dipped and decorated caramel apples:
1. Firm, tart apples are preferred. Avoid overly sweet or mealy varieties. Look for Granny Smith, Harlson or Fuji. If you just can't do tart look for big apples in the Gala, Pippin, Pink Lady or Cameo varieties.
2. What to use for caramel apple sticks? Wooden chopsticks are the best, but popsicle sticks take a close second. You can also get these sweet caramel apple “sticks” or thicker wooden skewers. Thick bamboo lollipop sticks are another option.
3. Use a quality candy thermometer. I've used this one for about 10 years and it's never failed me. Order it and it will be delivered in just a few days!
4. Keep your candy thermometer attached as you dip your apples. If the caramel stops sticking to the apples, return the caramel to the stove over medium heat. Bring the temp back up to 248 degrees and start dipping again. Don't forget to keep stirring!
6. Prep everything before you turn on the stove. Cooking the caramel and dipping the apples will require all your attention. Do these things before you start any cooking:
- Prep your apples with the chopsticks as instructed.
- Line your baking sheet with good parchment paper.
- Have a bowl of cold water ready to test the caramel
- Put your caramel apple decorations in bowls so they're ready to decorate as soon as the apples are dipped.
Easy Caramel Apples Recipe without Wrapped Candy Caramels
- 8 caramel apple sticks (see above for recommendations)
- parchment paper
- 8 big, tart apples
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- M&Ms, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and anything else to decorate your hand dipped caramel apples.
- Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Carefully drop each apple into the water and let it sit for 5 to 10 seconds. Remove from the boiling water and dry thoroughly to get the produce wax off the skin.
- Allow the apples to cool thoroughly while you line a cookie sheet with parchment.
- Twist the stems off the top of the apple, and then insert the pointed end of a skewer or chopstick into each apple.
- Mix butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk together in your tall saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Clip on a candy thermometer and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly.
- Continue boiling and stirring until your candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees. This will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Test the consistency by dropping a dollop of caramel into a dish of cold water. It should look and feel like a firm ball.
- Remove from heat at 248 degrees and add the vanilla extract.
- Dip an apple to the bottom of the pan of caramel and twirl it to coat. lift it out and twirl it again over the pan to let the excess drip off.
- Immediately roll the apple in toppings or decorate it by pressing toppings into the caramel. The one in the picture had individual M&Ms pressed in to resemble a pumpkin, but you can do anything you'd like to them.
- Set down with the stick side up on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Let the caramel cool and the toppings set before touching.
I think what I love most about this recipe is that it makes caramel apples without those wrapped caramel candies.
I love making things from scratch, and I think unwrapping all those caramels is more work than just making this delicious caramel! Plus, this simply tastes better!
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Do you have any good tips for easy homemade caramel apples? I'd love to hear them!