Nothing says fall to me quite like a gooey caramel apple – and these Perfect Caramel Apples have earned their title! Completely homemade and from-scratch with a buttery caramel coating, salty peanuts, and a crisp, juicy apple, they’re easy and simply perfect!
I’m just going to say it.
I think this may be one of my favorite desserts of all time.
You’re probably like, a caramel apple is a food blogger’s favorite dessert? Doubtful.
But I’m serious – a good, old-fashioned caramel apple is pretty hard to beat flavor and texture-wise. Plus, I am obsessed with anything caramel + peanuts so naturally this is a go-to for me.
Just outside of Sacramento about an hour or so away, there’s a little series of orchards called “Apple Hill.” Seated in Gold Country and nestled throughout rolling hills of grapevines, apple trees and pumpkin patches, there’s a distinguishable snap in the air as you travel through each unique farm. Some farms have petting zoos and corn mazes; others have craft booths and fishing. But my favorite ranch is called High Hill, and that one has the best food, in my experienced opinion.
If you’re ever in Placerville, California (where Northern California natives flock to around this time of year and leading into November), you have to stop at High Hill Ranch. Sure, it’s the most popular of the ranches, but it has the most craft booths, the best food, and it’s stunning. You can go for a tractor ride or pick apples among their fields of bountiful trees, or you can go on a food tour which I try to do every time I go!
My favorite things are the cider doughnuts, hot off the fryer and dredged in crisp, sparking cinnamon sugar, or the Dutch apple pie with a crumb topping so expansive, it towers a good 6″ from the bottom of the pie pan. But my favorite thing to get at Apple Hill is their famous caramel apples: HUGE, juicy, crisp Granny Smith apples plucked from the trees out back and smothered in their thick, glossy, buttery caramel sauce.
I’m a caramel apple purist, 100%. Those fancy gourmet caramel apples are so not interesting to me because I feel like they take away from the simple pleasures of apples and caramel. The only topping I request is lots of chopped peanuts, because the combination of salty, crunchy nuts against the buttery backdrop of caramel is heaven on Earth.
The caramel on my homemade Perfect Caramel Apples reminds me a lot of Apple Hill’s version. You will not believe how easy these apples are to make. A little labor intensive, yes, but with my steps, you’re sure to have a successful apple!
- First, wash ALL or MOST of the wax off of your apples! This is imperative, as the wax will cause the caramel to slip right off. Some people dip each apple in boiling water for a few seconds to remove the wax, but I found just scrubbing the apples under hot water for a few seconds and wiping them down well did the trick.
- Chill the apples ahead of time. This causes the hot caramel to set quicker on the cold apples than if the apples were room temperature.
- Have your toppings ready to go! The caramel sets relatively quickly, so you want to make sure your nuts, sprinkles, crushed cookies, or other accouterments are ready.
- Grease a parchment-lined baking sheet with butter to ensure the caramel apples don’t stick. After you dip and decorate your apples, you’ll place them onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate them to set completely. When the caramel gets cold, it will tear the parchment if the parchment is not greased. Just run a cold stick of butter over the parchment paper to give it some slickness for easy removal.
- You’ll dunk the apple 2-3 times, depending on how thick of a caramel layer you’d like. So after you dunk the first apple, don’t top or garnish it with anything yet! You’ll want to add another layer (see recipe for directions).
My mouth is watering just remembering how good these apples were!
- 6-8 medium-large Granny Smith apples, washed, wax removed, and chilled with craft sticks or popsicle sticks inserted through the core
- ½ cup salted butter, cubed
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups chopped peanuts, optional but my favorite topping, OR:
- Assorted chopped toppings such as crushed cookies, chopped candy bars, sprinkles, etc., optional
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter the parchment to grease it and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the brown sugar and corn syrup. Cook and stir until boiling, 10-12 minutes. Once boiling, stir in the condensed milk. Cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees F. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, taking care as the vanilla may cause the caramel to pop and fizz slightly.
- Take an apple and dunk it completely into the caramel mixture, coating all sides of the apple. Allow the excess caramel to drip off the apple, twisting the apple gently as the caramel falls back into the pan. This will help prevent a caramel "foot" - aka, that ring of caramel around the base of the apple. Return the apple to the baking sheet and repeat with remaining apples, noting you will dunk them a few times before adding toppings.
- Once all the apples have been dunked in caramel, repeat sequence to add another layer of caramel. Allow the excess caramel to drip off back into the pan, then immediately dredge or sprinkle the toppings onto the caramel apples. Return to the baking sheet and repeat with remaining apples.
- Refrigerate apples uncovered for about 1 hour or until set and firm. Allow to come to just about room temperature before consuming. Leftovers will stay good in the fridge for about 2-3 days.
Have a super sweet day!