Cream and honey... a honey crisp apple... a perfect pairing. This coating tastes as good as the Kraft version requiring unwrapping 40 caramels, it adheres to the apple instead of forming a puddle at the base of the apple, prep/cooking time is equivalent to the Kraft version, and it consists of three ingredients versus Kraft caramel's eight ingredients (corn syrup, sugar, skim milk, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, whey, cream, salt, and artificial flavor). Heidi Swanson, the mastermind behind the 101cookbooks.com blog where I discovered this recipe in her October 2008 archives, recommends a mild clover honey when making the caramels. I only had buckwheat honey, which is at the opposite end of the honey spectrum with its dark color and dominant robust flavor, but I liked the somewhat pronounced taste of honey in the end product. Maeve, who stayed at our B&B with her mother Jackie over MEA (Minnesota Education Association) Weekend, apparently anticipated that she was going to like them just as much... based upon her expression. After biting into the apple, Maeve queried, "Momma, these caramels have an interesting flavor - what do you think it is?" Jackie told me, "I should have guessed that they weren't just some caramels from a package."
Honey Caramel Apples
6 – 8 small cold unwaxed apples (I had enough caramel to coat 10 apples. The number is determined by how thick you prefer the coating.)
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup honey
popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks, or twigs
Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Push a popsicle stick, lollipop stick, or twig deep into each apple through the stem end. Fill a large bowl ½ full with ice water and set aside. In a medium thick-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream and salt until tiny bubbles start forming where the milk touches the pan (just before a simmer). Stir in the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to an active simmer and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 15-20 minutes or until the mixture reaches about 255-260°F. To stop the caramel from cooking, gently and carefully set the bottom of the saucepan in the bowl of cold water being careful not to get any of the water into the caramel. Stir until caramel begins to thicken up. You want the caramel to be thin enough that it will easily coat the apples but not so thin that it will run right off. If the caramel thickens too much, simply put the pot back on the burner to heat it up a bit. (I did this and it softens perfectly.) Tilt the saucepan so all of the caramel forms a pool on one side, then dunk and twirl each apple until it is thoroughly coated with caramel. You can also drizzle caramel over the apple with a spoon. Place each apple on the parchment-lined baking sheet and allow the caramel to cool and set.