I grew up in St. Louis, MO and in the fall, my local grocery store Straubs would carry the most delicious caramel apples by Merbs Candies. My mom and I discovered these apples back when I was in high school. We had no self control over them and would buy at least 2 a week until the season ended, sometimes fighting over them. The apples were big and crunchy; the caramel was soft and buttery and melted in your mouth. The only problem was that they were covered in walnuts, which I do not like, and would have to spend hours picking the nuts off the apples. After awhile I was sick of having to do this so I set out to make my own. It honestly wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and the results paid off. The caramel was buttery and soft just like Merbs. It's been over 10 years now that I make these caramel apples every fall. I only do it once during the season not because it's hard - they're just too damned good. I will eat every single one of these caramel apples!
Make sure you have a candy thermometer before starting. The right temperature is crucial for the perfect caramel.
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 tbsp dark molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
6 sturdy lollipop sticks or chopsticks
6 medium apples (rinsed and patted dry, room temperature) - please note you need to remove the wax coating on them before coating in caramel. To remove you can dip the apples in boiling water mixed with a splash of vinegar for a few seconds, remove and thoroughly dry.
Place sugar, butter, cream, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan. Heat on medium to medium low heat and stir slowly with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Let the caramel mixture come to a boil, adjusting the heat so that the caramel doesn't boil over the pan. Continue to stir with a wooden spoon. Monitor the temperature of the caramel with a candy thermometer. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 240°, remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
Let the hot caramel mixture sit in the bowl until the temperature cools to just below 200°, at which point you are ready to dip the apples.
While the caramel sauce is cooling, line a baking sheet with either Silpat or buttered aluminum foil. Insert the sticks into the center of the apples through the stem end.
When the caramel sauce has cooled, dip the apples into the sauce. Swirl each apple around in the sauce so that the caramel sauce completely coats the apple, except for the very top near the stick.
Place the coated apple onto the lined baking sheet and refrigerate.
Once the caramel has chilled a little bit, remove from the refrigerator and press the caramel at the bottom of the apples up against the side of the apples.