Can you believe I've never once had a caramel apple? Not once. Sure, I've seen them and lusted after them, but they're always sold in public settings, and, like, how on earth do you eat one of these things in public without looking foolish and/or getting stick all over your face?
It seemed like something I'd feel mortified to attempt so I figured it was best to avoid them.
I don't know why the thought to make my own never occurred to me until now. Probably because they seemed like one of those high fuss desserts. Kinda like cake pops. Baking, then mashing with icing, then rolling, popping them on a stick and dipping them in chocolate. Whew! Why not just eat the cake pre-cake pop? Making caramel, inserting sticks, dipping, rolling, letting cool. Why not just dip some apple slices in soft caramel and call it a day?
Anyway, this is another non recipe because I just couldn't be bothered to make my own caramel.
It's not because I'm too lazy or I just didn't have time. I've had ups and downs with caramel in the past. Either I cooked it too long or too short (usually because I was nervous as hell and thought my candy thermometer was playing tricks on me) or I was a complete dummy and used shortening instead of butter which gives it a weird flavour (do not do that).
With Halloween upon us, what's stopping me from buying a huge bag of creamy caramels and melting them down? You can find these bags literally everywhere you go at this time of year. And if you want candy apples in the middle of May, soft caramels can always be found in the bulk aisle. So there's really no reason to go through the nerve-wracking agony of making caramel.
Still not convinced? Well, I should also mention that there's usually a recipe/how-to printed right on these bags of caramels. Yeah. I just saved you a good bit of searching on google for a recipe. And I saved you a trip back to the store to get some cream because who the heck knew that that was necessary in making caramel apples. Oh and you know what else is in most of those bags? Sticks. So you don't have to go foraging for branches or buy that super econo pack of 1000 wooden popsicle sticks just to make 12 apples (like I had to for making popsicles because the regular, normal-person sized boxes of wooden popsicle sticks were out of stock every. single. time. I went to the store and I was tired of hounding popsicle sticks like a crazy person).
I used these tart little apples homegrown by mom and self-picked by Idle Husband and I. I think that makes them specialer. Plus there's no waxy coating which I've heard can keep the caramel from sticking (make sure to really scrub your apples if you're using store-bought).
The branches were kind of one of the main reasons I wanted to do these in the first place. I saw a picture of some candy apples with branch sticks a couple years ago and I really wanted to do it, too. In retrospect, I should have made sure to find branches that were smooth and had bark that was not falling off all over the place. I had some issues with a few of them. I really should have snatched an apple branch at the same time as picking these, so if you want to do the same thing, fair warning.
I think that using little apples made a huge difference when it came down to the eating part. Not only were they a little more tart than the average grocery store apple (which pairs really well with the intense sweetness from the caramel), but the smaller scale made them a little more manageable in the "how do I bite into this?" department.
My favourite was chocolate and caramel. I just chopped up some semi-sweet chocolate chips and dipped the warm, caramel covered apple into them. (I may have gotten chocolate on my face while eating this but at least I was in the comfort of my own home.)
I also rolled a few in chopped walnuts. These were Idle Husband's favourite. Basically, I'm saying you can roll them in pretty much anything you choose. Just have everything prepped before you start dipping.
I almost forgot -- if you really want to be lazy about it and still have the same effect, just chew a piece of caramel while eating an apple. It totally works in a pinch. (Don't ask me how I know these things! No! I'm not addicted! I can stop any time! Stop judging me with your judgy eyes.)