Caramel-covered apples are a hands-down hit with kids and grownups, and they’re simpler to make than they seem. If you’ve never made caramel before, take a practice round before party day—it isn’t difficult, but it requires close attention and faith (and a candy thermometer). Recipe adapted from Stella Parks at seriouseats.com—her recipes never let me down.
Makes 10–12 apples, depending on fruit size
12 small apples (try McIntosh or Paula Reds)
12 popsicle sticks (wider ones are better)
½ cup water
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold heavy cream
Assorted toppings, such as toasted chopped almonds, cinnamon candies, toasted coconut, mini chocolate or butterscotch chips—so many possibilities. Let the kids go nuts if they’re helping!
Skewer the bottoms of the apples with the popsicle sticks and place on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Have cream, thermometer and a silicone spatula on hand; portion out any toppings into shallow bowls.
Combine the water, sugar and salt in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved, 4 to 5 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high and cook the mixture without stirring for about 10 minutes, until the sugar begins to brown. When it turns nut-brown, stir in the cream and cook, stirring constantly with a silicone or other heatproof spatula, until the temperature of the caramel reaches 250°F. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and stir until the temperature is around 210–212°F.
Take the tray of apples from the fridge and dip them (1 at a time) into the caramel, turning each apple stick side down to let the coating run down the sides of the fruit. Sprinkle on the toppings while the caramel is still warm (move quickly here—you don’t have long until the caramel starts to set). Place stick side up on the lined baking sheet and repeat until all apples are coated.
Wait at least 10 minutes for the caramel to set before serving. Refrigerate if you are making ahead.
LEIGH BELANGER is the food editor at Culture magazine. Her second book, My Kitchen Chalkboard, about streamlining dinnertime for busy families, will be released this coming fall. She lives in Jamaica Plain.