Walk into any grocery store this time of the year and it is likely that you’ll be greeted by a large stand of granny smith apples next to a bin full of bagged caramels. Yep, it’s caramel apple season.
My favorite place to buy caramel apples is Disney World. As is typical with Disney, they take a plain fruit add some Disney magic (in this case that would be chocolate and colored sugar), and come up with a creation that temps the eyes of adults and children alike. Click here to see a past blog entry I wrote on the treats around Disney World.
With that inspiration in mind, I wanted to try to make caramel apples that were a little more creative this year. I decided to try apples that resembled pumpkins and, since Halloween is just around the corner, I even threw in some Jack-O-Lanterns.
Here are the instructions for Pumpkin Caramel Apples.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
You will need 6 granny smith apples (pick out apples that are evenly shaped and can stand upright on their own), 6 cookie sticks, modeling chocolate* (click here for a recipe to make your own modeling chocolate), green paste food coloring, 2 (14 oz) bags of caramels**, 2 bags of orange candy melts**, and orange sanding sugar. If you will be making Jack-O-Lanterns you will also need some black or brown candy melts (not pictured.)
*If you don’t have modeling chocolate another option is marzipan
**You really only need one bag of the caramels and candy melts but it is much easier to dip the apples if you use 2 bags. You will have a lot of leftover but you can save it for other uses later on. If you decide to only use one bag of each you may need to use a spoon to help cover the apple when dipping it.
Step 2: Attach Apples to Sticks
Clean the apples and dry completely. Use a pencil sharpener to sharpen one end of each of the cookie pop sticks.
Remove the stems of the apples by holding onto the base of the stem and twisting. Insert the sharp point of the stick into the apple. You will need to use a little force to get it to insert all the way.
Step 3: Melt Caramels
Unwrap the caramels and mix them with 4 tablespoons of water in a medium sized pot. If you are only using one bag of caramels you only need 2 tablespoons of water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fully melted. Pour into a large measuring cup or other container that is slightly larger than the apples you are using.
Step 4: Dip in Caramel
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with waxed paper then spraying it with some non-stick cooking spray or rubbing it with some butter.
Holding each apple by its stick, dip the apple into the caramel, sinking it until it covers all but the very top of the apple.
Lift the apple out of the caramel and hold it over the measuring cup, allowing it to drip until most of the excess caramel has dropped off. Scrape the bottom of the apple against the side of the measuring cup to remove additional caramel then place the apple on the waxed paper.
Continue with the rest of the apples then place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and allow to set up for 30 minutes.
Pour remaining caramel in a bowl and save for later as an ice cream topping or a fruit dip. To reuse, heat in a microwave until fluid, stirring often.
Step 5: Add Modeling Chocolate Lumps
You can skip this step to save time but the modeling chocolate adds some lumpiness to the apple, giving it a more realistic pumpkin look. Take balls of modeling chocolate, knead them with your hands then roll them out into logs, tapering the ends a bit.
Attach the log to the side of the apple (it will stick easily to the caramel) and use your fingers to press the sides of the logs down on the apple, shaping it to form a mound that is thicker in the middle then thins out on the ends.
Continue adding mounds until the entire apple resembles the shape of a pumpkin.
Step 6: Dip Apple in Candy Melts
Mix the candy melts with 1 tablespoon of shortening (only use ½ of a tablespoon if you only use one bag of candy melts) and place in a double boiler or metal bowl over a pot of simmering water that has been removed from its heat source. Continue to slowly stir the candy coating until it is completely melted.
Pour the coating into a measuring cup or other container that is slightly larger than the apples you are using. Dip the apples in the coating using the same method you used to dip them in the caramel, except cover the top of the apple all the way to the stick.
Allow the chocolate to drip and then scrap the bottom of the apple against the measuring cup, as before.
Step 7: Cover Apple in Sanding Sugar
Pour the sanding sugar into a large bowl. Hold the apple over the bowl and use a spoon to pour the sugar over the apple. To get the sugar on the lower sides and bottom of the apple it helps to use your hands and sort of toss the sugar up onto the apple.
Set the apple back on a clean sheet of waxed paper. Continue with the rest of the apples then place them back in the refrigerator and allow to set up for at least 30 minutes.
When you are done, pour the remaining melted chocolate onto a piece of waxed paper and spread it out into a thin layer. Allow to cool completely then break up into pieces and store in an air tight bag for later use.
Once the apples are completely set, tip them and pour off the excess sanding sugar.
Step 8: Decorate
To complete the look, the pumpkins need stems. Take some modeling chocolate and color it green with paste food coloring. Roll out a small log and attach it on the top of the pumpkin and up against the stick.
Continue all the way around the stick then use the heat from your fingers to smooth and mold the chocolate into a stem.
If you want to turn your pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, melt some black or brown candy melts and place them in a disposable decorating bag, fitted with a #2 small round decorating tip. Pipe the face onto the pumpkin.
To add more detail, make some tendrils and leaves. For the tendrils, I used a clay gun to form long thin ropes of chocolate (the chocolate melts too easily if you try to roll it in your fingers) and then twisted the ends around a skewer and allowed them to set up in the freezer for a few minutes until they were firm.
For the leaves, I thinly rolled out a piece of modeling chocolate then used a small ivy leaf cutter to cut out leaves. You could also cut these out free handed with a small knife.
Then take a veining tool or the back side of a knife and create veins in the leaves.
Use a toothpick to apply small dabs of light corn syrup on to the stem and attach the tendrils and the leaves to it.
Here are the finished pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns. Enjoy!
Until next time, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.