Skip the chemical and processed sugar-laden caramel dips at the grocery store. Delicious, homemade, all-natural caramel is simple to whip up at home; and caramel apples with your favorite toppings are sure to sweeten your Fall.
It’s that time of the year when the leaves are changing (and in some cases, falling), decorative gourds are making their appearances, and caramel dip is strategically placed right next to the apples in the grocery store.
I picked it up and looked it over, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that wanted to take that caramel and bury it in the back of the store. It was filled with partially hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors and at least three kinds of overly processed sugar –basically, a bunch of unnecessary ingredients that we don’t need polluting our bodies. So I grabbed a few key ingredients and headed home to make my own caramel dip, which also happens to work perfectly for caramel apples.
To ensure your caramel turns out perfect I highly recommend using a pastry brush and a candy thermometer as laid out in the recipe below. If you don’t have access to either of the two, you run the risk of grainy caramel (not using a pastry brush) or over/undercooked caramel (not using a candy thermometer). I have made successful caramel without the aforementioned tools, but have made some pretty terrible caramel without them, as well. I really like this candy thermometer and this pastry brush, but any will do.
Aside from the thermometer and pastry brush (which aren’t 100-percent necessary but give you a better shot at perfect caramel), it’s very important you use a medium-size saucepan (roughly 9 inches in diameter), as the size of the saucepan will determine how long the caramel needs to cook. If you’re not a fan of Granny Smith apples, feel free to substitute your favorite apple. If you can’t find brown rice syrup, corn syrup will work in a pinch but make sure you get a variety that’s GMO-free.
Makes 6 small apples
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/2 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (the kind from the can)
- 6 small granny smith apples
- 6 wood sticks
- Unsweetened shredded coconut
- Mini chocolate chips
- Chopped roasted peanuts
- Whisk together the brown rice syrup, sucanat (or brown sugar), and coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat and, if you’re using one, stick a thermometer on the side of the pan.
- Once the mixture is gently boiling, turn up the heat (just barely) over medium and set a timer for 10 minutes. Since all stoves cook at different temperatures, make sure the mixture hovers just below 200 degrees Fahrenheit during the duration of boiling.
- While boiling, the mixture is going to bubble up the sides of the pan; resist the urge to stir it. Check to see if the bubbling has left behind sugar crystals. If so, dampen the pastry brush and use it to wipe the edges and dissolve the sugar.
- After 10 minutes, the caramel should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If not, continue cooking for an additional minute or two, then remove the caramel sauce from the stove and transfer to a bowl or 2-cup measuring glass. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
- While the caramel is cooling, prepare the apples by removing the stems and scrubbing them with the rough side of a sponge. You need to really scrub them to remove the waxy coating (even some organic apples are coated with wax) or else the caramel will not stick. Towel-dry them, then place sticks in the top.
- When the caramel is ready, line a small baking sheet with a silicone mat. Submerge each apple, letting the excess run off, and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the refrigerator to set for 20 minutes, or until the caramel is firm to the touch.
- Place your toppings of choice on a plate (I went for chocolate chips, shredded coconut and peanuts) and, after 15 minutes, remove the apples from the refrigerator. If the caramel has pooled on the silicone mat, press it up around the sides of the apple. Roll each apple in toppings, then place it on a jumbo muffin tin. Apples can be kept refrigerated for up to three days.