Apples and teachers go together like No. 2 pencils and college-rule lined paper or for my years in school, a No. 2 pencil and many, many pink pearl erasers. I’d even venture to say on every teacher’s desk from kindergarten through eighth grade you’ll find the iconic symbol of their profession in the form of a paper weight given as a token of appreciation.
But wouldn’t be nice to start the new school year totally “old school” giving a treat of gooey, deliciousness that is a hand-made gift from the kitchen and dressed up a little to make a good first impression? It’s easy to make dipped caramel apples from scratch. And when I say easy, they really are.
I’m not talking about little packaged caramel squares that melt in the microwave. No, no, no! “Whack!” (That was the sound of a ruler hitting a desk.) We’re making fresh buttery caramel with brown sugar that bubbles away on the stove with the ending note of a pure vanilla splash when… ding! “Time’s up! Put your spatula down.”… the sugar mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm-ball stage).
This was my freshman attempt to make caramel apples but they came out perfect because the ingredients are so basic and I applied my “tips” (see below) to making them. The trick to acing the caramel quiz is constant stirring while the caramel cooks. If you can do this for about 20 minutes you’re going straight to the head of the class with room mom swagger that shows the teacher you’ve got this holiday party thing covered this term.
You’re child’s teacher will love the thoughtfulness behind her caramely apple as is but how about some extra credit? An added decoration of a leaf or two and a little apple blossom made from rolled-out fondant will definitely earn you an A+.
I created the fondant decorations with Wilton’s Decorator’s Preferred Fondant, the leaves with the Leaf Fondant Double Cut-Out Set of 6 and the blossom with the scalloped flower plunger from the Mini Flower and Leaf Cut-Out Set. This flower plunger is my all-time favorite. I use it all the time for a little touch of sweetness.
Let the cut-out pieces dry for a few hours over a pencil or something similar to form a shape.
To get high scores in presentation and what really inspired me to give caramel apple making the ol’ college try in the first place was seeing that Wilton had all these nifty candy apple supplies this season. With twiggy sticks, paper treat cups and gift boxes available I was all set to excel!
The Caramel Apple Branch Sticks! I love these! I never felt comfortable sticking a real twig into something edible so thankfully Wilton came up with the perfect solution. Yay! You can also use a wooden lollipop stick which is good for those mega, heavy apples. Another idea is to place a colorful straw over the dowel stick if it fits. I’ve got a GREAT tip of how to make the sticks stand up straight in the “tips” section below.
The Caramel Apple Treat cups to hold the apples have been lined so the buttery goodness (grease) doesn’t seep through and they are wide enough if you have a little caramel “foot” that puddles around the apple base. They would also be great to hold assorted candies if you’re thinking about hosting a caramel apple decorating party after school.
Word problem time!- “Jane wanted her teacher to see her pretty apple but putting it into a cello bag would be messy because the bag would stick to the caramel. How could Jane solve this sticky dilemma?”
A. Completely cover the caramel with candy or nuts covering up the beautiful, rich, tan caramel.
B. After seeing how the cello bag sticks to the caramel, she decides to eat the apple herself and tells the teacher her dog ate it.
C. She purchases a pack of three Wilton Caramel Apple Treat Boxes, places the apple into the box with a see-through window and a place for the stick to poke through on top of the box, ties a pretty color-complimentary bow on the stick, adds a tag and happily presents it to her teacher.
The correct answer is: C You did see that coming, didn’t you?
Let’s start on our school project! The recipe is below but here are some tips –
Picking your apples: If you want to have nice straight sticks with your finished apples, start with good apples! Choose each apple based on how they stand. I stand up each apple in the store to see if it leans or is straight. I don’t think a lot of dippers take the time to do this but it makes all the difference. If you buy apples in bulk and some apples lean, don’t put the stick in line with the stem or it will lean too. Place the apple on the counter and insert the stick so it will stand straight up.
1. Prep apples by scrubbing off the wax with a clean brush or scrubber under hot water. I’ll even dip them into just under boiling water if I think there’s any wax left. Have them ready to go, dried, with sticks inserted. Place them on a silicone mat or buttered parchment paper. You’ll place them back on this surface after they are dipped.
2. Use a heavy bottomed sauce pan.
3. Use a candy thermometer.
4. A heat-proof spatula will reach the bottom of the pan the best while stirring constantly. I like this over a wooden spoon.
5. Stir constantly while the mixture is on the heat. Do not pass go or collect $200. Stay at the stove stirring.
6. When the caramel is ready to begin dipping the apples, work fairly quickly as while the caramel is still very hot to touch (don’t) it will do the lava-thing and start to crust over on top.
7. Do be careful not to touch the hot caramel with your hands or be tempted to take a taste off the spatula. It’s never a good day to go to the ER.
8. Left over caramel can be scooped out onto a buttered surface to cool and later cut into bite-sized pieces with a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel or flaky salt crystals. Heaven. Wrap each little nugget of gold in waxed paper and you’ve got extra little gifts or a taste of sweetness with an afternoon cup of coffee.
9. If it’s humid where you live, best not to make the caramel apples more than two days ahead and place the fondant decoration on the apples not too far in advance. Humidity can make the caramel droop if you’ve got a thick coating on and take the fondant decorations with it. I have one apple that did this and the others did not. Just know it can happen but probably won’t.
10. With moisture in mind, don’t refrigerate the caramel apples. Fondant especially doesn’t do well in moist settings.
I hope you make the grade with your own pretty caramel apples.
- 1/2 c. butter, cubed
- 2 cups packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
- 1 c. light corn syrup
- dash of salt
- 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In a heavy sauce pan, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring mixture to a boil (about 10 minutes).
- Stir in condensed milk and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees (firm-ball stage)
- Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
- Dip each apple on a stick into the caramel and place on a a silicone mat or buttered parchment to set. Decorate with cut-out fondant leaves and flowers if desired.
Mini Flower and Leaf Cut-Out Set
Leaf Fondant Double Cut-Out Set
Caramel Apple Branch Sticks – sku# 2113-0259
Caramel Apple Treat Cups – sku# 415-2407
Caramel Apple Treat Boxes – sku#415-2406
The Wilton Caramel Apple Products are so new they might not even be in the store yet and they’ll be on Wilton.com on Sept. 9th so I don’t have live links for you yet but I will on the 9th. Also, I’ve listed the SKU# in case you wanted to call your store that carries Wilton products to see if they have them out yet.
As a Wilton Brand Ambassador and member of the Wilton Sweet Treat Team, I received product and/or compensation for this post by Wilton Cake Decorating. All ideas and opinions are my own and all the products were chosen by me to share with you because I use them and love them and thought you might love them too.