Got a glut of apples left from the fall and want a fancy way to serve them up? This, to me, is the essence of fall in one singular snack: apples, caramel, oatmeal, spices--plus, it comes on a stick. A STICK! The height of gastronomic technology. It all went downhill after that, IMO.
It's not too challenging, but it does take some time and you have to be comfortable with hot caramel. Those disclaimers aside, have at it!
Step 1: Wash Your Apples!
Did this step really need 4 pictures? No. But I picked these apples myself, and the way the light bounces off them in the afternoon sun? Hot damn. So, yeah. Step 1: wash the apples. The regular way. With water. You should probably also go through and make sure there aren't any bruises or other general nastiness on your apples, too.
Step 2: Make the Crumble!
It's really important that you do this step first. Caramel waits for no man, so you need to make sure everything else is ready first.
I based my recipe off of Ina Garten's, but went rogue with some spices to add to the Apple Crumble vibe.
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cardamom
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
Turn the oven to 350F. Mix all the ingredients together, except for the butter. Then, dump the butter on top. Get out two knives and start cutting the butter into the dry mixture until it resemble the texture in the second-to-last picture. Save half this mixture*. Spread it out evenly on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and bake it for 15 minutes, then mix it around a bit with a spatula, rotate the tray, and bake for another 10 minutes. Take out and let cool. (Note: Mine is slightly over-baked. You want it to look a bit lighter than that.)
*This makes a LOT of crumble, waaay more than you need for this project; the un-baked mixture freezes fabulously and can be used to make a fruit crumble or baked up at a later date.
Step 3: Prep Your Apples!
If you know 100% that your apples are not waxed, you can skip this step. If you've made caramel apples before and the caramel seemed to slip down the apples and wouldn't stick, the waxy coating they spray on at the grocery store is probably the culprit.
Fill up a pot with water and get it to boiling. Add a teaspoon of baking soda and a squirt of lemon juice, if you please. Once it comes to a boil, dump the apples in for all of 15 seconds, then immediately remove the pot from the heat, pour out the water and blast the apples with very cold water to stop the cooking process.
Step 4: Stick 'em!
I used dowels from the dollar store, but any sturdy stick of your choosing will probably also be fine. I sharpened them with a pencil sharpener to make it easier to stick them into the apples, but it wasn't 100% necessary. Use your pointy sticks to impale the apples, a sacrifice to Deliciousness.
Step 5: Make the Caramel!
I should say first that you should have a workstation prepared: apples close by, and a place to put down the very hot pot, a tray covered with parchment paper to place the dipped apples, and easy access to a sink/cold water just in case shit gets crazy. I always use a candy thermometer so that's the method I've indicated here, but if you're clever, there are definitely ways around that. DISCLAIMER: Caramel is hot sugar. Hot sugar is dangerous. Don't mess around.
Inspired by this recipe here.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine everything except for the vanilla and salt in a pot. Over low heat, bring to to 230F. Take off the heat, pour in vanilla and sea salt. Mix gently.
Step 6: Dip!
Holding the apples by the stick, dip them into the caramel. Try to do this as levelly as possible, because it creates a really nice line across the top. Hold the apple upside down for 30 seconds to a minute so that it sets a bit and won't pool as much at the bottom. Place the apple down on the parchment-covered baking sheet for a couple of minutes, and then dip it into your bowl of crumble.
Step 7: Make Your "ice Cream"!
The "ice cream" on these apples is actually white chocolate melting wafers. Sneaky, right? (Note: the above pictures were taken with peanut butter melts, so the colour looks a little off-putting, but the steps are the exact same.)
Gently melt the wafers in the microwave, then, once they've achieved a workable consistency, use a spoon to pour them into a squeezy bottle. Once the caramel on the apples has set, squeeze chocolate over the top to give it the look of melting ice cream.
The chocolate should take 2-3 minutes to harden, and then you're good to go!