One of the joys of my childhood was caramel apples — the sticky sweet caramel balanced by a crisp and juicy apple. Preceded in history by the bright red cinnamon-flavored candied apple, invented in 1908 by a candy maker in New Jersey, the caramel apple was developed by a Kraft employee in the 1950s.
Kraft Caramels, individual cubes wrapped in cellophane, packed in a plastic bag, were prominently displayed in the supermarket candy aisle. The process couldn’t be more satisfying — the children tasked with unwrapping the caramels so Mom could melt them in a saucepan before dipping Popsicle-stick-speared apples. Mom was smart enough to know that two full bags of caramels netted about 1½ bags of unwrapped candy. While the dipped apples chilled, we cheerfully cleaned the sticky sauce pan, the drips and drops spattered on the table and our chins and fingers.
I have not seen a bag for years, but hope they still print the “recipe” on the package. Or you can buy little caramel blankets to smoosh around your apple.
If you’re up for a more adult, more advanced version, this from-scratch recipe will take under an hour, not counting the important chill time of another hour.
Old-Fashioned Caramel Apples
Makes one dozen
1 pound dark brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
⅔ cup dark corn syrup
⅓ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp dark molasses
¼ tsp salt
Whipping cream as needed
12 chopsticks, thick skewers or sharpened Popsicle sticks
12 medium Granny Smith apples, washed and chilled
Combine the first eight ingredients in a heavy 2½ quart saucepan. Stir with wooden spatula over medium-low heat until sugar completely dissolves, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush or paper towel.
Clip candy thermometer to side of pan, increase heat to medium-high and cook caramel at rolling boil until it reaches 236 degrees, stirring constantly with a clean wooden spatula for about 12 minutes, wiping down sides as above.
While caramel cools, line two baking sheets with foil and butter the foil. Stick skewers into apples and prepare optional chopped nuts, toffee bits or miniature M&Ms.
Holding stick, submerge apple in 200-degree caramel. Lift and drip runoff back into pan. Hold apple up and let caramel firm up, then place on buttered foil. Repeat and space apples on sheet before chilling for 15 minutes. Pick up each apple and wrap puddled caramel back around apple. Press optional decorations into caramel and chill about an hour.