My daughter and I take our first bites of caramel apple, a combination of rich sweetness with just a tiny bite of salt hardened onto a crisp new crop apple. Divine. After sharing our first batch with guests (and kind of wishing we had kept more for ourselves) we had a caramel apple party a couple of weeks later, full of sprinkles, stickiness and lots of giggles.
There are two things that I really like about this recipe. First, there is the gooey, sweet, buttery caramel over crisp apples. That’s enough to like right there. Secondly, I get this gooey, sweet, buttery, caramel after only two minutes of simmering time. Score!
I was really excited that this caramel apple recipe was so easy. It is almost as easy as the caramel dip my grandmother used to make for us girls growing up. She’d unwrap soft caramel candies and melt it with extra butter (and maybe cream?). We’d happily dip apple slices into it and eat so much we’d be sick. True story.
However, since there are a variety of reasons caramel candies aren’t in our weekly diet, I haven’t made that same delightful experience happen for my 6-year-old. So, this summer, when she got a caramel apple on vacation, she was quite excited. I have never been too enthusiastic about making these at home, as many recipes require lots of simmering and getting it to a certain temperature, which is always kind of a hassle. "I’ll do it sometime," I'd think, but it just never happened.
All to say, this easy recipe was a boon, and one which is easily repeatable.
Of course, you can sprinkle on a variety of yummy toppings onto the caramel too, which is what my daughter likes to do (I don’t let her drizzle the caramel because hot sweet syrups create the worst burns). Think chopped roasted peanuts, sprinkles (we use naturally dyed ones), chocolate chips, or whatever else catches your fancy. And why not dip it in melted chocolate after the caramel layer has cooled? Now that would be yummy too.
Easy, All-Natural Caramel Apples
For dipping whole apples, you will need Popsicle or craft sticks. I doubled this recipe and got 5 whole dipped apples, and 5 drizzled apples. I recommend doubling the recipe, as it is easier to get out of the pot when drizzling. How many apples you are able to cover depends on how cooled the mixture was when you started drizzling, and how big your apples are. Adapted from an Eating Well recipe.
1/3 cup coconut sugar, whole cane sugar (such as rapadura or sucanat)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
Dash of unrefined salt
1 teaspoon vanilla (use gluten-free for a gluten-free version).
3 small apples (if you wish to completely cover), 6 small apples, if you wish to only cover half by drizzling it.
Any desired toppings (see above for suggestions)
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you want to completely cover apples with caramel, stick a popsicle/craft stick into the top of each.
2. In a small pot, combine the sugar of choice, honey, butter (or coconut oil), salt, and vanilla. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Once the mixture starts bubbling on the edges, set timer for 2 minutes. Stir constantly. Take off heat and add vanilla. Be very careful with this mixture, as it can burn badly.
3. To coat whole apples: Working quickly, with one hand hold the end of the popsicle stick, holding the apple over the pot. Careful spoon over caramel, turning the apple to coat all sides. Place back on the parchment paper and top with desired toppings, if using. Repeat.
4. To drizzle: Let mixture sit for about 30 seconds to 1 minute (to cool a bit — it won’t run off the apples as quickly). All apples should be on the parchment paper. Using a large spoon, carefully drizzle about 1 to 2 tablespoons over each apple. It will drizzle over the sides of the apple on its own. The longer the caramel cools, the thicker it will become. After doing this over all of the apples, you can go back and scoop up any caramel on the parchment paper and re-drizzle over the top. Decorate as desired.
5. Cool for at least 30 minutes. I find that it hardens better when placed in the refrigerator.