Four ingredients (including the apples). Autoimmune protocol-friendly. No dairy. No refined sugar. Amazingly delicious. I know what you’re thinking… it’s about time!
Something about the season makes me think about caramel apples…. and I think it’s more than just the fact that my house is overflowing with fresh, local, organic apples. We used to get them at a fall fair near my home when I was growing up. The stand had caramel apples (with soft gooey caramel coating rolled in nuts) and candied apples (with that hard candy shell) and I always chose caramel. One year my mom made caramel apples to give out at Halloween (although caramel popcorn balls were her standard)–yes, those were the days when homemade treats weren’t immediately tossed in the trashcan when kids came home from Trick-or-Treating around the neighborhood. I have fond memories, but it’s been a donkey’s age (that’s a long while, right?) sine I last had one.
Caramel is normally made with sugar, corn syrup, butter and cream (or sweetened condensed milk), heated to hard ball stage (the fat in the mixture keeps the candy from being too solid). Yeah, I don’t eat any of those ingredients and my youngest is super sensitive to dairy, so even using ghee was out of the question. But, I’ve had great success with other candy-making ventures (like Marzipan and Creme Eggs) replacing sugar and corn syrup with honey and maple syrup, so with that as my starting point, I just had to play around with a dairy-substitute, fat content and candy temperature and see what I could come up with.
I actually developed a version of this recipe for The Paleo Approach Cookbook (as a sauce for my applesauce spice cake recipe), so I’ve been tinkering with my 3-ingredient caramel for quite a while (and actually, the salt is optional). All I really had to do in order to change my AIP caramel form a sauce to a firm but sticky apple coating was adjust the temperature.
Note that many coconut milk recipes rely on the guar gum in the milk to act as an emulsifier. I never buy coconut milk that contains guar gum and pretty much only buy Natural Value or Aroy-D. This recipe works perfectly without the guar gum. Yay!
There are a few tricks to making candy (caramel is a type of candy/confection). First, mix all your ingredients while still room temperature very thoroughly. Second, use a heavy bottomed pan for even heating. Third, heat very slowly (this should take 20-30 minutes to come to temperature and if you heat it too quickly the sugar and oil will separate). Fourth, always use a candy thermometer. Fifth, don’ t leave the kitchen.
It’s actually really easy to make and if you follow those tips, pretty foolproof. I hope you enjoy these as a Halloween or fall treat this year (and many years to come!). Happy Halloween!!!!
Yield: 8-10 apples, depending on how big they are
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup coconut cream (use the top thick part of probably 2 cans of chilled full fat coconut milk or buy Aroy-D coconut cream… also note this is not the same thing as coconut cream concentrate)
- dash salt
- some apples, chilled–use any variety you like to eat
- You’ll also need popsicle sticks or cakepop sticks or something similar
- Combine room temperature honey, coconut cream and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed pan. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Attach candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
- Turn element on to medium-low. Heat until it reaches 245F (don’t go over 248F). No need to stir. Around 220F, it will start to bubble… if it looks like it’s going to bubble over (it probably won’t, but it can be nerve-racking), stir it a little to pop some of the bubbles. This should take 20-30 minutes and is pretty hands off, so be patient (but don’t leave the kitchen!).
- Once it reaches 245F (it’s helpful if you have a thermometer with an alarm), remove from the heat. Let the caramel cool down to under 200F before dipping apples (I think around 180F works best for a thick coating).
- While you’re waiting for the caramel to cool, skewer your apples with your popsicle sticks. It doesn’t really matter which end you skewer them through (I chose from bottom to stem). Also line a baking sheet with wax paper, parchment paper or a silicone liner and grease the paper or liner (coconut oil, palm shortening, ghee, lard, whatever…)
- Once the caramel is cool, dip the apples to evenly coat. Place them on your prepared baking sheet and pop the whole thing in the fridge for the caramel to harden.
- I know it’s hard, but give them at least an hour, if not two or three before you peel them off the sheet. When you peel them off the sheet, you can leave the fun little caramel lip, or you can mold it onto the top of the apples with your hands.
- The caramel is nice and sticky so if you want to roll your caramel apples into some chopped nuts (we thought pecans were particularly good), go ahead!
Variations: You can actually make this caramel into caramel cube candies. Poor into a lined and greased pan, cool completely, then cut into squares. You can also substitute half or even all of the honey with maple syrup (but I think honey ends up tasting more caramely).