This year, I wanted to try my hand at fresh caramel apples. We tested so many recipes for these apples, and in a blind test, individually wrapped caramels won out each time over homemade caramel. The caramel is stable and takes on flavors perfectly. I added heavy whipping cream, flaky sea salt, and a touch of hazelnut liquor for the adult apples. And who needs store-bought wooden sticks when you can use an elegant apple branch? Move over, pumpkin carving — these fall branchy caramel apples are the stars!
Easy Salted Caramel Apples
6 organic or farm-fresh apples (no wax)
6 cleaned and trimmed
20 to 25 (usually in a bag) individually wrapped butter caramels (we liked Kraft brand the best)
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1 to 2 tablespoons hazelnut
Sea salt to taste (optional)
6 squares natural parchment paper
Unwrap the caramels, and melt slowly with the heavy cream in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Watch this carefully and stir frequently.
Prepare your apples. Using a paring knife, slice an X that is at least 1 inch deep at the top of each of your apples. Being careful to not break the branch, shove it into the X. The branch should become a sturdy-enough handle to dunk and hold the apple with.
Once your caramel is melted, remove from the heat and add sea salt and liqueur, if you like. Gently dunk each apple into the melted caramel, and, using a spoon, drag the caramel up the sides to coat the entire apple. Lift above the caramel to let excess caramel drop off, and repeat for a thicker shell. Place the finished apple onto the parchment square to cure for at least an hour.
Repeat this process for the rest of your apples. Finish with a light sprinkle of extra-flaky salt before caramel sets.