Boo! ...zy caramel apples

Story highlights

  • Red-wine caramel apples are a great treat for adults on Halloween
  • Red wine deepens the caramel flavor and adds fruitiness
  • For other boozy variations, substitute bourbon, amaretto liqueur or Frangelico for the wine
Caramel apples are a perk of fall, and while most of us have fond childhood memories associated with this autumnal treat, one of our editors, Danielle DeSiato-Hallman, helped them grow up. Her recipe for Red-Wine Caramel Apples is a great treat for adults on Halloween.
Since this is America's Test Kitchen and we believe most things are better when you make them yourself, we make our caramel from scratch, replacing some of the standard heavy cream with reduced red wine. Not only do the coated apples develop a beautiful, reddish color, but the wine also deepens the caramel flavor and adds a hint of rich fruitiness.
If you prefer bourbon to Burgundy, don't despair; these treats are just as good when made with other boozy additions. We've included variations such as Bourbon-Pecan Caramel Apples, Amaretto Caramel Apples and Frangelico Caramel Apples for delicious, grown-up versions of our favorite childhood treat. Because who's to say kids should have all the fun on Halloween?
Red-Wine Caramel Apples
(Serves 8)
We prefer Granny Smith apples for this recipe, but Braeburns and Galas are also acceptable. For individually wrapped treats, refrigerate coated apples for 4 hours before wrapping in plastic wrap and securing with a ribbon or twist tie. Apples can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic for 1 day, or refrigerated for up to 4 days.
1½ cups red wine
8 Granny Smith apples, stemmed, washed and dried thoroughly
8 wooden chopsticks (4 pairs, divided) or skewers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces) packed light brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
1. Boil wine in small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to ½ cup, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, line baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Stand apples on baking sheet and insert chopstick or skewer into stem end of each apple.
3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup, and cook, stirring, until sugar is melted, about 2 minutes. Stir in ¾ cup cream, bring to boil and cook until mixture reaches 235 degrees, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in reduced red wine (mixture will bubble vigorously).
4. Return pan to medium-high heat and continue cooking until mixture reaches 255 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in remaining cream. Let cool until mixture reaches 200 degrees, 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Holding one apple by its chopstick, immerse apple in caramel with swirling motion, tilting pan if necessary to pool caramel deep enough to coat at least ¾ of apple. Lift apple out of caramel and hold over pan for about 10 seconds, allowing excess caramel to drip back into pan, then hold apple upside down over pan for about 15 seconds, allowing caramel to begin to set. Return to prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining apples and caramel. If caramel cools too much and becomes too thick to evenly coat apples, briefly return pan to low heat to loosen caramel, but do not let caramel simmer again.
6. If desired, sprinkle Maldon sea salt lightly around top third of caramel. Let apples stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.
For Bourbon-Pecan Caramel Apples:
Substitute ½ cup bourbon whiskey (such as Maker's Mark) for red wine and reduce to ¼ cup in step 1, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue with recipe as directed. Roll bottom third of apples in ½ cup chopped toasted pecans and ¼ teaspoon Maldon sea salt.
For Amaretto Caramel Apples:
Substitute 1 cup amaretto liqueur for red wine and reduce to ½ cup in step 1, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue with recipe as directed. If desired, roll bottom third of apples in mixture of ½ cup chopped toasted almonds and ½ teaspoon Maldon sea salt.
For Frangelico Caramel Apples
Substitute 1 cup Frangelico liqueur for red wine and reduce to ½ cup in step 1, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue with recipe as directed. If desired, roll bottom half of apples in mixture of ½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts and ½ teaspoon Maldon sea salt.