Why It Works
- Using a two-stage cooking method lets you customize the degree of caramelization without sacrificing consistency.
- A 1:1 ratio of sugar and cream keeps the caramel tender, so the apples are easy to eat.
- Cold apples shock the caramel, for a thick, quick-set coating.
To make the best caramel apples at home, you need the right sort of caramel for dipping—pale gold, so you can still taste the nuance of your favorite apple, but with plenty of toasty depth and a hint of salt to temper its sweetness. This caramel's thick enough to generously coat each apple, but tender, so you don't have to worry about dislocating your jaw with every bite.
- 8 to 12 small apples, refrigerated until cold
- 4 ounces water (1/2 cup; 115g)
- 9 ounces sugar (1 1/3 cups; 255g)
- 1 teaspoon (4g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
- 9 ounces heavy cream (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 255g), chilled (see note)
Skewer apples with popsicle sticks, then return to fridge. In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine water, sugar, and salt over medium heat. Stir with a fork until sugar is fully dissolved and syrup comes to a rolling boil, about 4 minutes. Simmer, without stirring, until syrup is honey-gold, roughly 9 minutes.
Immediately add cream (the mixture will sputter) and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant spatula, until caramel registers 250°F (121°C) on a digital thermometer, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a small heat-resistant bowl and cool to about 212°F (100°C).
Dip cold apples in caramel, letting excess drip off before transferring to a parchment-lined cutting board. Let stand at room temperature until fully set, about 10 minutes, and serve.
If you have fond memories of apples dipped in the sort of super-thick and chewy caramel that can really work your jaw, reduce the cream to 6 ounces (3/4 cup; 170g). Otherwise, proceed exactly as directed.