Ammar Zafar/Staff Photographer

“I don’t do sweet,” I say adamantly, referring to everything from candy to relationships.

Of course, this statement should be clarified: I certainly do hyperbole. Sweet can be fantastic in the proper place and in the proper dosage. I love strawberries, but given the choice I err on the side of slightly underripe. I love chocolate, but bittersweet varieties have the firmest foothold in my heart. I love Sour Patch Kids, but the real point for me is the “sour.”

Caramel apples, a classic fall favorite, need to find this happy medium as well. Too many times I have bitten excitedly through the rich caramel into the crunch of the apple, chewed, swallowed, and been done with the entire experience after that single bite.

Finding this balance is what makes making caramel apples tricky. It takes apples that have enough acidity to combat the potential for cloying sweetness. It takes the proper ratio of apple to caramel. It takes playing around with toppings that give you the flavor palate you desire. But when you’re ignoring homework and job applications, you have all the time in the world to do such experimentation.

There are two approaches to making these desserts. There’s the “Oh, [creative expletive], it’s my friend’s birthday in 20 minutes, and I have nothing in my fridge but caramels and apples” approach. Conversely, there’s the “Oh, [creative expletive], I need to impress someone really important who’s also a world-renowned chef” approach.

This article will provide you with the resources to handle either one of these common crisis situations. Just roll up your sleeves, whip out your candy thermometer (you carry one everywhere, right?), and start melting. The most fun part is playing around with different topping combinations—in light of the holiday, the scarier the better, like diced onions and Nutella.

If you’ve run out of costume plans for the rest of this Halloweekend, this is the activity for you; alchemists are “in.” Cooking sugar for the caramel is a sweat-inducing, stress-reducing, manically meticulous experience that can produce magical (good-tasting caramel) or dangerous (blackened sugar and a call to Physical Plant) results. More importantly, if you’re disappointed because you feel you spent the fall season under a pile of midterms instead of leaves, this can be a last hurrah before we are buried under our next blizzard.

Homemade Caramel

(Adapted from


2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt


1. Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl by filling the bowl halfway with water and ice.

2. Combine sugar, cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt in a medium-sized, deep saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.

3. Using your candy thermometer, continue heating the pan until it is 250 degrees, which should take approximately 10-15 minutes.

4. Immediately place the bottom of the pan into the ice bath to stop the cooking, and let it rest for approximately a minute until the boiling subsides completely.

5. Stir the caramel in the pan, thoroughly mixing the cooler (stiffer) caramel from the bottom with the warmer caramel on top. Remove the pan from the bowl of water.

Caramel Apples

(Adapted from


8 small Granny Smith apples
8 craft sticks, skewers, or even (cleaned!) sticks
Homemade Caramel Sauce OR less-homemade sauce (see below)
Toppings of choice (for example, mini-M&Ms, crushed Reese’s cups, mini dark and white chocolate chips)

For less-homemade sauce:

1 14-oz. package caramel candies
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla


1. Skewer apples with sticks, and place them standing on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

2. If your apples are waxed, or if you are unsure, dip them in a pot of boiling water. The wax will otherwise make the caramel unable to stick to the apples.

3. Prepare caramel sauce. For homemade sauce, follow directions above. For less-homemade sauce, combine caramel candies and heavy cream in a double boiler (makeshift—a heatproof bowl atop a small pot with boiling water—or standard), and let melt, stirring frequently. Add vanilla and stir until smooth.

4. Dip apples in caramel, and quickly roll them or sprinkle them in desired toppings before the caramel begins to set. Once the apple is dipped, you have approximately half a minute before it becomes tricky.

5. Allow apples to rest on parchment paper until caramel is hardened.

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