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Dozen Flours

Sincere Acts of Sweetness

February 19, 2009

Caramel Apples

Caramel apples are one of my son's absolute favorite things that I make. I have only made them one time before and that was on a whim after a colleague asked me if I would make theme for his wife. Two years later, I decided it was time to make them again but this time I'd do it to raise money for two charities: Heifer.Org and Child's Play.

So, around the middle of January, I sent email to friends and coworkers announcing my plan to make caramel apples in time for Valentines Day and provided a link for them to place their order (I used Survey Monkey). I offered five flavors, either with or without little red hearts (click on each picture for a close-up view):

Plain Jane was just that: plain! These were by far the most popular flavor.

M&M was also just as it sounds. A Granny Smith apple dipped in caramel and decorated with mini M&Ms, regular sized M&Ms, or if the customer asked for their apple to be Valentines Day-ized, they received their apple donned in pink, red, and white M&Ms.

Chocolate Lovers is a Granny Smith apple dipped in caramel that's dipped in dark Belgium chocolate and Lindt milk chocolate.

Cinnamon Apple Pie Just like grandma used to make but better! It too is a Granny Smith apple dipped in caramel that I then roll in homemade pie crust crumbs and coated with Scharffenberger white chocolate and then dusted with cinnamon sugar.

Sweet n' Salty was a flavor I made last time whose popularity was off the charts. For this special apple, I dip it in caramel and then roll it in crushed pretzels. It's then dipped in Belgium dark chocolate and then peppered with both red and white Hawaiian sea salt. Yummers!

While my caramel recipe is top secret, I will share a few tricks to making great caramel apples:

- Only use Granny Smith apples. In my opinion, there is no other apple that tastes as good with the caramel. If you pick a sweeter apple, the sweetness of both the apple and the caramel is almost too much sweet. The tart and sweet combination works really well.

- Take the time to soak your apples in a good quality vegetable soap to try to remove as much of the wax on the apples. I fill up the sink with luke warm water, put a few big squirts in the water, and let the apples sit for about 5 minutes. Then I rinse them using the same temperature water (don't use cold of the wax won't come off) and use a dish towel or polish and dry every apple. I then lay the apples out on a beach towel, stem side down (you should have removed these before washing. Using needle nose pliers really helps to get the broken stems out). Failure to do this can cause the caramel not to stick to the apples. I do not recommend removing the wax by dropping the apples in boiling water, even if just for a second. This will remove all the wax but the skin will turn brown almost immediately (I know this because I tried that too).

- Make caramel apples when the weather is cold. High heat and humidity will cause a good quality caramel to stay soft and not stay stuck to the apple. I set up a table in my garage to store the apples as I was making them as I ran out of refrigerator space very quickly.

- Don't make your caramel ahead of time and plan on dipping it later. Make it in small batches and dip your apples right away. Good caramel made with real butter does not melt the way a Kraft caramel* does. It will melt down but it will be lumpy and when it dries, it will have a matte surface and its texture will be grainy.

- If you're making a big order of apples like I did, color code your sticks in some way ahead of time. I just use markers to color the very ends. When you're ready to dip, you're working against the clock so you won't have time to really think about how much of what flavor you need when it's time to dip your apples.

- SilPat mats are the BEST surface for holding your apples after you've dipped them. Waxed paper is my second favorite but it still sticks. Buttered foil will work in a pinch but when your caramel starts to harden, it will stick to the foil and peeling tiny bits of foil off a big bunch of apples is no fun.

- If you can find the thicker wooden sticks, use them instead of the paper ones. While the paper ones are fine, I found that the caramel and chocolate that would inevitably get on my fingers would stick and stain them. The wooden sticks clean up better and I think look better overall.

- I like to use cupcake liners to hold finished apples. However, finding the right ones can be difficult. Most cupcake liners are just plain paper and these will stick to the caramel and are pretty much impossible to remove. I found one brand that was at Whole Foods (I don't have the box handy but I'll try look for them the next time I'm there and report back).

- Avoid Wilton bags at all costs and try and find strong florist bags instead. Wilton's bags are thin and sticks to the caramel making the bag look dirty and gives an unprofessional appearance. You can also use big squares of cellophane that are made specifically for caramel apples but I've never used them but I imagine they would be better than any wimpy Wilton bag.

- Make a few extra apples in each flavor because people will want more. The last thing you'll want to do is make more apples after you just cleaned up your kitchen. :)

* In my opinion, Kraft Caramels will work but the apples you get are nothing all that special. Good caramel, the kind you cook in a big pot on the stove, stirring constantly for about an hour, that's made with good quality ingredients and LOTS of love, that makes you smile instantly when you eat it, just doesn't compare and isn't even in the same league. Kraft Caramels would never be found in my kitchen, but that's just me.

My goal was to make 100 apples and when all was said and done, I made 130 apples plus three half-pound orders just for my caramel. I want to personally thank everyone for their orders and for making my little fund raiser such success! I plan to do it again at the end of the year in time for the holidays.


  1. Wait, buying just the caramel was also an option??? Can I place my order now for the next time you make it?!?

    Hands down my favorite caramel of all time!

  2. I agree....we could order just the caramel? Dang it! Now I know. The apples were a big hit with all!

  3. Oh these are incredible! I want some!!! So sad.... The salty sweet sounds to die for. Everything you post keeps getting better and better!

  4. What a great idea! Your apples turned out beautifully, and judging from how good they look, I'm not surprised you had such a huge turn out!

  5. They were awesome!! The apple pie was my fav. Hubby and I had the chocolate lovers last night, I gave the sweet and salty one to my parents, and still have the plain one to devour.

  6. R u saying kraft caramels are a good idea or NoT a good idea????? homemade is better or worse?

  7. What a big job...but you don't seem to shy away from a big mess for a great result!! Wow...those looked amazing.

  8. Oh, those look so good! Great idea!

  9. how cute are those?!? and how did i miss the cocoa sliders from the last post? i love the little hearts in the middle! these caramel apples are making me seriously hungry!

  10. Thanks so much for your tips. I have made carmel apples a few times and I always end up with a plain apple and a puddle of carmel. So thanks for the soaking them in vegi soap. Also I live in AZ so that might have something to do with it too.
    Your apples were beautiful!!! I think i would pick the chocolate!!!

  11. Dominica bought me an apple for Valentines Day and they were delicious! Thanks so much

  12. This is so awesome! What a great idea, and every single apple looks perfectly delicious.
    Kudos to you for your hard work!

  13. Your apples look incredible, especially that sweet and salty one! What a generous thing for you to do. I'd love to order some the next time you do something like this.

  14. These look absolutely divine.

    So do you mind divulging how much you charged for each apple and how much you made for charity? It sounds like such a great fundraiser!

  15. Mandy and Wine Gidget - So glad you both enjoyed the apples so much. The plain caramel that I sold by the half-pound was a happy accident. After I handed out the orders, several people asked me for anything I had left. When I ran out of that, other people asked me to make them just the caramel so I did. :-) I'll include that in the order form next time around which will in time for the holidays.

    LaDue - next time I'll be sure to include you in my order form. :-) Thank you for your sweet comments!

    Elyse - thank you!!

    Lilly - I'm so glad you liked them! So who is your hubby?

    Anonymous - I updated my post to include my true feelings about the Kraft caramel. I wrote it right towards the bottom of the tips section.

    thetoddlerwhisperer - I know, right? When I was up late one night tying ribbons to all the bags, I was asking myself why I keep doing such big things lately. Not sure what is going on with me.

    Bridget - Thank you!

    Heather - glad you liked the sliders. I made those cookies while I was makings the apples and had a bowl of hearts just sitting there. I liked the contrast of the red and the brown together.

    Tiffany - you're so very welcome. I'm not sure what you use as your recipe, but try cutting back on the butter as that will help too. Thank you for stopping by!

    Shannon - yay! Dominica ordered more than anyone! I'm so delighted to hear that you were happy with yours.

    Creativecarryout - thank you Michelle! When I was all done with them I took a moment to really look at the apples and thought they looked pretty too. Sometiems I shock myself. ;)

    Hayley - thank you! When I'm ready to do this again around the holidays, I'll definately contact you!

    Melody - That's a good question! I charged $5 for the plain, $7 for the M&M, and $10 for each of the other flavors, as well as the 1/2 blocks of lone caramel. After expenses (I had to pay for everything wholesale unfortunately) and the apples I gave away pro-bono (for family, etc), it looks like I'll be able to do donate over $700!

  16. What a wonderful fundraiser! What a big heart you have...and these are sooooo beautiful!

  17. What beautiful apples!

  18. What a great idea! My pick would be the cinnamon apple pie one :)

  19. They look fantastic! Yummy!!!

  20. I just spent the last few minutes going through your blog and I absolutely love it! I might try a few of your ideas! I've never tried to make caramel, but your apples make me want to try. They look delectable and adorable!

  21. Terrific job as usual!!!! You rock Julia! All of them looked fantastic. I like the sound of the apple pie one. I think it's the cinnamon sugar that did it for me.

    The twins have asked that I make them caramel apples but was intending to you use (your cringing) Kraft caramel but I guess I won't now. LOL! So here's what I'm thinking..... let's see how well your apples ship? :-)

    Btw, I made Peabody's snickerdoodle blondies...not the same. The kids ate them but said that yours were better.

  22. These look fantastic! What caramel recipe did you use for the apples??

  23. The Food Librarian - Thank you!

    Kim - Thank you!

    Y - While I love the salty sweet combination, the apple pie would be my favorite too.

    thereddeer - Thank you!

    Miniemay - Thank you!! You should totally give it a try. Making caramel takes some practice but it's so worth it.

    Ingrid - Aww shucks! Thank you!! Ack, don't use the crappy Kraft junk. You could totally make your own caramel. I believe in you! And you crack me up with those the snickerdoodle bars.

    Bunny -- Thanks Bunny! Unfortunately my caramel recipe is top secret :-( Sorry!

  24. So unfair that we don't work in the same office!!!

  25. You can count me in when you do this again. Those apples sound so yummy, I would love for myself and gifts!

  26. I know this is random, but can you tell me how much caramel it took to make 130 apples (if possible in a measurement like ounces)? I'm thinking of making these as favors for my wedding and I'm trying to estimate the cost. Thanks so much!

  27. Hi Chris --

    Each batch of caramel that I make yields about two pounds. And I made 4 double batches, or about 16 lbs of caramel to make these. I'm not sure how that would compare to another caramel recipe (my caramel tends to be on the thick side). I hope that helps!

  28. Yikes! 16 pounds for 130 apples? Goodness...

    Well, thanks for the info!

  29. these are lovely.
    I really want to try and make these.

  30. This is the first food blog I've come across where the recipe is a secret! As "Thibeault's Table" says, "Recipes are meant to be shared."

    Yours are among the best-looking homemade caramel apples I've come across. For the vast majority who read your blog and are not able to purchase them, please reconsider sharing your caramel recipe.

  31. YUMMY! i love it! it's my first time to see these apple pops!


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