1recipe homemade caramel OR 2 to 3 pounds store bought caramel (see note)
12-14medium apples, I prefer Granny Smith or Honey Crisp
12-14(6-inch) lollipop sticks or wooden sticks
White, milk, or semisweet chocolate or candy coating for dipping
Crushed Oreos, graham cracker crumbs, toffee bits, chopped candy bars, etc for decorating
Remove stems from the apples. Soak the apples in very hot water, submerged completely, for 8-10 minutes. Drain.
Scrub the apples very thoroughly with soap (or a fruit wash) and hot water to completely remove the wax from the apples. This step is extremely important! Dry the apples completely. Again, this is an important step so the caramel will stick to the apples.
Press a stick into the top of the apple and using a meat mallet or hammer, lightly pound in the stick until it's about halfway into the apple.
Make homemade caramel (per the recipe linked in the notes or using your favorite homemade caramel recipe) and let cool to 180-190 degrees F (or warm up store bought caramel to the same temperature). Make sure not to stir the caramel vigorously - it will create air bubbles and those bubbles can pop on the surface of the caramel apples.
Dip one side of the apple in the caramel and slowly lift all the way out of the caramel (this helps any air bubbles pop as the apple is gently lifted out). Give the apple a quarter turn and dip back into the caramel. Repeat this process until the apple is coated all the way around (I like to leave a small open spot at the top so you can see the color of the apple).
Use the flat edge of a knife to scrape off any excess caramel on the bottom of the apple. Place the apple on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until the caramel is set and completely cooled. Repeat with the rest of the apples and caramel.
To decorate, dip the sides of the caramel apples in melted chocolate and sprinkle with toppings of choice (lots of options in the post). Refrigerate until set. Package in cellophane bags tied with twine.
Homemade caramel: My favorite homemade caramel for caramel apples is this recipe. IMPORTANT CHANGES: I don't use the vanilla bean, instead I add 1 tablespoon vanilla at the end of cooking. I also only cook it to 238 to 240 degrees if I'm using it for caramel apples. One batch of this caramel will dip about 12-14 medium sized apples.Store bought caramel: The best store bought caramel for homemade caramel apples is Peter's - both in taste and the outcome of the apples (less bubbles, super glossy and not dull, etc). It is sold in a loaf/brick so you don't have to unwrap a million individual caramels.*Please read through the entire blog post to get insights into other tips and tricks for success, the type of sticks I prefer using, flavor ideas for decorating, etc.