Crisp, tart apples coated in smooth buttery caramel make these Gourmet Caramel Apples the perfect Fall treat. It's the tradition that you'll want to do year on year. Plus, when dipped in extra toppings they make fantastic gifts!
I love the soft chewy nature of the caramel around the apples- way easier to eat for kids. If you did want to try your hand at traditional hard toffee apples then head to my Toffee Apple recipe.
This homemade Caramel Apples recipe is so easy to make from scratch. Follow along for all the step by step instructions and tips. Plus I'll show you how to turn these from a regular Caramel Apple into A Gourmet Caramel Apple!
❓ What's the difference between Caramel Apples and Toffee Apples?
First things first. They are one and the same thing. Here in the UK we call them Toffee Apples, and in the US they're called Candy Apples.
Both toffee and caramel are a type of candy, but they have very different consistency and tastes.
- Caramel is also made from sugar but with the addition of butter and cream, which creates a soft, chewy coating around the apple that doesn't harden. A lot easier to bite for little teeth (or old!).
- Toffee, on the other hand, is predominantly made with sugar which results in a hard crack coating around the apple. You'll off find the toffee dyed red with food colouring.
Caramel Apples and Toffee Apples are traditionally eaten throughout Fall and served as a snack on Halloween. They're also popular on Guy Fawkes Night in the UK too. Really though, why limit them to just a few weeks a year?!
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. All the ingredients needed for these DIY Caramel Candy Apples are basic pantry or fridge staples.
- Easier to make than you think. If you have the right equipment on hand and follow my instructions you'll have no problem and all the fun making these.
- Make them as Gourmet as you like. Go the extra mile by decorating your gourmet caramel apples in extra toppings. Get creative. Extra is always better in this case!
🧾 Ingredients Needed
- Golden syrup - Provides added flavour to the caramel and helps prevent the sugar from crystallising. Alternatively use light corn syrup. You can't omit this ingredient as it helps the caramel stick to the apples.
- Cream - use double (heavy) cream. Half half or low fat cream will be to thin to use in this recipe. Condensed milk is a great store-cupboard substitute.
- Butter - The butter adds richness but along with the cream, prevents the caramel from going rock solid. It keeps it soft and chewy.
- Light brown sugar - To make regular caramel sauce I use white sugar but in a caramel coating the light brown sugar adds richness and depth.
- Vanilla extract - A couple of teaspoons of vanilla enhances the caramel flavour.
What Are The Best Apples to Use?
The caramel is sweet, there is no denying that, so I prefer to go for a crisp, tart apple like Granny Smith, to balance out that sweetness. You can also use Honey Crisp, Braeburn, or Jono Gold apples- or any apple you love!
The are a couple of things to look out for when buying your apples.
- Make sure that they don't have any bruises.
- Make sure that the apple can sit flat.
- The apples are on the smaller side.
📖 Variations: Gourmet Caramel Apple Toppings
I mean, really, you can decorate your apples in whatever you think of. They are completely customisable to your own likes and you can make them as gourmet or as simple as you like. The kids love turning these into their own special Fall treat.
- Chopped nuts: hazelnuts, almond, walnuts, macadamia, pecans.
- Mini marshmallows: the soft to crunchy apple contrast is something extra.
- Crushed pretzels: chocolate coated pretzels or regular.
- Cookies: crushed Oreos, Digestive Biscuits, Ginger Snap Cookies or Graham Crackers.
- Candy: chopped up Mini M&M’s, Reeses peanut butter cups, Maltesers'.
- Flaked salt: just a little to offset the sweetness and get that salty sweet kick.
- Melted chocolate: milk, white or dark.
- Extras: Cinnamon Sugar or toasted coconut.
NOTE: Chop your toppings up finely. The smaller pieces are more likely to stick on the caramel whilst it cools.
🥣 Equipment You’ll Need
Caramel Apples are fun, and you only need a couple of pieces of equipment to make them.
Before making any form of caramel, I strongly advise that you get everything out and ready – I mean equipment and ingredients. Have it all ready to go.
- Popsicle sticks or caramel apple sticks: This allows you to dip the apples into the toffee without the risk of burning yourself. If using popsicle sticks, make sure they are the larger ones otherwise they aren't long enough.
- Large bowl and tongs: Before making the toffee, the apple wax coating needs to be removed. The bowl and tongs allow us to do this safely.
- High-sided saucepan: To make the toffee in.
- Pastry brush: Brush away any sugar crystals from forming around the edge of the pan.
- Candy Thermometer: The most accurate way to know when the sugar is at the hard crack stage is with a candy thermometer. Notes below if you don’t have one.
- Baking tray: Line a baking tray with paper and have it on hand to place the dipped apples immediately on the paper to harden.
👩🏻🍳 How to Make
Making caramel might feel daunting but seriously, it's quite a simple process. Plus it's lots of fun too and the kiddies love getting involved.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
How to Prepare the Apples
If you were to dip store bought apples directly into the caramel it would probably slide right off. There's a couple of simple steps that I advise you to take to ensure this doesn't happen.
STEP 1: Prep the apples. Dunk the apples into hot water for 20 seconds or so (Image 1). Go for the hottest water your tap will produce rather that boiling water. Boling water can turn the apples brown.
Take the apples out using tongs and rub them well with a tea towel until dry (Image 2). The apples have to be clear of any moisture on the skin.
Push lollypop sticks or caramel apple sticks into the apples and place them on a parchment lined baking tray (Images 3 & 4).
TIP: Pop the tray of apples in the fridge whilst you make the caramel. Cold apples make the hot caramel stick better to their skin.
Making the Caramel
STEP 2: Make the caramel. Melt the butter in the heavy-based saucepan, then add the sugar, cream and golden syrup (Image 5). Bring to the boil and continue to bubble away until the temperature reaches 115C/240F (Images 6 & 7). This can take between 15-20 minutes to reach temperature.
Once it reaches this temperature, add the vanilla bean paste. Be careful as it will bubble up. Stir to combine (Image 8).
Dipping the Apples
STEP 3: Cool the caramel slightly. Next, pour the caramel into a high-sided bowl and allow the temperature to drop to 100C (212F). Whilst waiting, pour your toppings onto shallow plates.
TIP: Too hot and the caramel will form to thin a coating around the apple. Too cool and the caramel will be too thick and gluey. Use a thermometer to get the exact temperature.
STEP 4: Dip the apples. Now one by one holding the apple by the stick, dip the apple, twisting it around until fully coated. Lift it out of the caramel and allow the excess to drip off.
Set the caramel apple on a silicon mat of parchment paper. Enjoy them straight away or let the caramel set in the fridge. This takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
If wanted to set the apples on a serving platter - pop each apple onto a cupcake liner to prevent it from stick to the the platter.
TIP: If you want to minimise the caramel puddle on the bottom of the apple then let the excess drip off. After 30 seconds turn the apple upside down so the apple bottom is up top and stick underneath.
Hold it like this for 1 minute. It allows the caramel to set around the apple rather pooling at the base.
Decorating the Apples
This is the magical extra step from turning your regular caramel apples to Gourmet Caramel Apples.
You can see below that I coated the bottom half in chocolate sprinkles and crushed biscuits. I also drizzled melted milk chocolate over another apple.
STEP 5. Decorate (optional). This is the fun part. Roll the caramel whilst it's freshly dipped into your choice of topping (Images 13 & 14). You need to be fairly quick as the caramel does start to set.
If you want to drizzle melted white, milk or dark chocolate over the caramel or dip the coated apple in melted chocolate, then wait until the caramel has fully set. You can then drizzle over or dip into the chocolate (Images 15).
TIP: Gift Giving
Gourmet Caramel Apples make fantastic gifts for friends, family and teachers over the Holiday season. Once the caramel has set, wrap the apple in clear cellophane and tie it to the stick with a cute ribbon.
If using a lollypop stick you can even write the recipients name on the stick.
💭 Expert Pro Tips
- Dry the apples properly as any moisture will cause the caramel to slide off.
- Don't turn the stove up when waiting for the caramel to come to temperature. This will just cause it to burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Be quick when dipping the caramel apples into your toppings. The caramel hardens and the toppings won't stick if you wait too long.
- Refrigerate your apples for 30 minutes minimum after dipping. This speeds up the caramel setting.
- Pour boiling water into your caramel bowl or saucepan. It dissolves the caramel in a couple of minutes.
📋 Recipe FAQs
Yes, the apples are definitely best when cold. This helps the hot caramel stick to the outside of the apple and prevent it from slipping right off. Now a great look when making gourmet caramel apples!
The only time I would recommend this is if you have multiple people ready to help dip the apples into the caramel. The caramel starts to thicken as it cools and if working solo you would just end up reheating the caramel, a lot.
Alternatively you can make a double or triple batch and keep it warm in a slow cooker.
Whilst I haven't tried this out before, I have heard that it's possible. You need 15oz store-bought caramels and 45ml (3tbsp) double (heavy cream) or evaporated milk. A popular caramel is Werther's Chewy Caramels or Kraft Caramels.
Heat the caramels and cream in a heavy based saucepan on low heat stirring constantly so it doesn't scorch, until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and dip the apples in as per my instructions.
Don't discard it. You can make your own homemade caramel chews. Let it cool to room temperature then scoop out a teaspoon worth. Using dampened fingers, roll the caramel into a ball then flatten into a disc. Wrap in baking paper with the ends twisted like a traditional sweet.
❄️ Storage Instructions
To store: The Gourmet Caramel Apples are best eaten on the day they are made. However you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The longer the are stored the more likely that the caramel will seep. The moisture from the apples affects the caramel after a while.
🍎 More Fall Recipes
If you tried this Gourmet Caramel Apple recipe, or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you!
Gourmet Caramel Apples
- 8 apples, Granny Smith's
- 170 g unsalted butter
- 330 g light brown sugar, packed
- 180 ml golden syrup
- 180 ml double cream (heavy cream) or condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare the Apples
- De-wax the apples. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Using tongs, dip apples into boiling water for a few seconds, then dry with a tea towel to remove wax from the apple peel. Ignore this step if you have unwaxed apples. Push popsicle sticks into the apples. Set apples aside; when completely cool, insert a popsicle stick firmly into each apple for a handle place on a lined baking tray.
- Refrigerate your apples. A cold apple will cool the caramel as it goes on, which will help it stick better. This step isn’t essential, but if possible, refrigerate your apples for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.Get all your ingredients for the caramel ready. Prepare your toppings by chopping or crushing them and setting into individual bowls.
Make the Caramel
- Cook ingredients to the correct temperature. In a deep-sided heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar, golden syrup and cream with a wooden spoon (constantly stir to ensure the caramel doesn’t stick on the bottom of the pan).Bring to the boil and continue to bubble away until the temperature reaches 115C (240F). This can take 15-20 minutes to reach.
- Cool caramel until it thickens. Remove the pan from the heat. Set the pan aside and let it cool slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes, until it registers about 100°C (212°F). The caramel will thicken slightly as it starts to cool. Using mitts, carefully transfer the caramel into a bowl (or keep the caramel in the saucepan).
- Dip and decorate apples. Dip each apple into the hot caramel to completely coat the apple, let the excess caramel drip off. Then hold it upside down for 30 seconds to allow the caramel to cool slightly and settle. Place on a lined baking tray to set.If decorating, dip the caramel apple immediately into your choice of toppings. Then place on the lined baking tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes until set. If decorating in melted chocolate, wait until the caramel has fully cooled and set before proceeding. Refrigerate until set.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.