A shiny, bright red candy apple is a thing of beauty, the kind of sweet treat that you lusted after as a child. These treats are often available in candy shops during the fall and many of us wait all year long to get our hands on one. Fortunately, you don’t need to wait anymore because you can learn how to make candy apples at home.
Choose your apples
Since the coating on a candy apple is sweet, you should use a relatively tart apple to make this candy apples. Granny Smiths are a classic option and will give you a nice contrast between green apple and red candy coating. I used red Jazz apples, as well.
In general, any apple that you might use to bake a pie will be a good match for this recipe. Skip the golden delicious and gala apples, as they tend to be on the softer, sweeter side and won’t give you as nice of a contrast with the sugar.
Once you have your apples, clean them well. Then, take some popsicle sticks (or cake pop sticks) and drive them down into the top of the apples, right where the stem usually comes out. I use a meat mallet to make this job go quickly, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. You want the sticks to go about halfway into the apples.
The candy coating
Since the coating on the apples is candy, it should be no surprise that this recipe starts with plenty of sugar. I also added corn syrup and water to the sugar to discourage crystallization while the sugar cooks. The last thing you want to find in a candy apple is a sandy candy coating!
The sugar has to cook to the hard crack stage, which is between 300 F and 310 F, before you can dip your apples. I highly recommend using a candy thermometer to make the whole process quick, easy and foolproof.
Once the sugar is cooked, it is time to add food coloring to turn it a distinctive red color that is so typically associated with candy apples. Paste or gel food colorings are easier and richer in color, but liquid food colorings will also work. Be sure to stir in the coloring until the sugar is a uniform color. If you want to add a flavored candy oil to the sugar, this is the time to do it, as well.
You’ll note that the candy on apples has some bubbles. They form when the food coloring is stirred into the hot sugar. I admit that I may have stirred mine a little vigorously and have a few too many bubbles, but I don’t mind the unique look that it gives the finished product.
To minimize the bubbles, stir in your food coloring gently and then allow the sugar to sit for a minute or two so that the bubbles can subside. The sugar may thicken slightly, but it is very hot and will still be plenty hot enough to dip your apples.
Dipping the apples
To dip the apples, tilt the pan to one side to pool the hot sugar, then grab an apple by the stick and dip it in carefully.
Let some of the excess sugar run off before transferring the apples to a parchment-lined baking sheet to set completely. The apples should be ready to eat in about 20 minutes.
You might be wondering how many apples this recipe will yield. The answer? It depends on the size of your apples. I’ve seen some apples that are the size of a softball before! I don’t recommend using extremely large apples because they are difficult to work with.
Candy apple toppings
You know those elaborately topped candy apples at chocolate stores and fairs during the fall? Those are actually caramel-dipped apples, not candy apples. The crisp coating on a candy apple isn’t usually paired with toppings.
That said, there is no reason you can’t add a few if you like. To add nuts, simply dip the base of the apple in finely chopped nuts (I recommend salted and toasted almonds or peanuts!) before the candy is completely set. The same thing can be done with sprinkles.
To add chocolate, wait until the candy is completely set, then temper the chocolate and drizzle it on. This means you don’t have to store your apples in the fridge (which would make the candy stick). You’ll still have a crisp, crunchy, sugary coating on your apples!
How to make candy apples
Makes 4-6 apple
- 4-6 medium apples
- 6 popsicle/cake pop sticks
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- ¾ cup water
- ½ teaspoon red paste food coloring
Clean your apples well and dry thoroughly. Place one stick at the center of each apple, where the stem would be, and drive it down into the apple.
A meat mallet or similar tool is the easiest way to do this. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water and stir gently to ensure sugar is saturated. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Bring sugar to a boil and continue to cook until sugar reaches 300-310 F, the “hard crack” stage.
Remove from heat and stir in food coloring. Allow sugar to stand for about 2 minutes so that bubbles can subside.
Holding the apples by their sticks, dip them one at a time into the sugar. Tilt the saucepan so that the caramel pools on one side, which will make it easier to dip
Allow excess sugar to drip off, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining apples.
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