Caramel Apples with Pretzel Toffee Crunch / by Chelsea Zwieg

Whoever it was that thought to stick the very best fruit there is on a stick and dip it into a hot, melty vat of buttery, sugary caramel is someone I would very much like to meet/befriend/marry/be. Ideas don't get much better than that. While my entire life has basically been one giant phase of caramel apple obsession, there was a time in high school where my caramel apple game was strong. I would go to the pick n' save by my house (if you're not from WI just know that this is the world's worst grocery store) and get giant caramels apples whenever I could. It also happened to be around the time that I got my driver's license which meant that taking that 4 minute drive to the grocery store made me the coolest person I could possibly be. My favorite part of those caramel apples though, or really any caramel apples, was all of the things they would stick on the sides. Mini M&Ms, heath bits, chopped peanuts. That salty, sweet, tart thing gets me every time. 

In making my own, I knew I wanted something salty on the outside. And there is nothing that steps up the salty/crunchy plate more than pretzels. The only problem is, if you just stick pretzels to the caramel, they tend to slide down to the bottom, dragging the caramel with them. Also, just pretzels seemed boring. So I chopped them up and mixed them with toffee bits and melted butter. The mixture gets baked at a low temperature which lets the toffee melt all around the pretzels as they get toasted. When it cools, the toffee hardens and you are left with a thick slab of toffee full of pretzels which can be broken up into little bits (slidy pretzel/naked apple problem solved). 

For the caramel part, I am a full supporter of just melting down store bought caramels with a little bit of water. Homemade caramel is super fun but getting it to just the right temperature where it is dippable but will still harden on the apple but still be easy to bite is just a little too high risk for me. I can't get all excited for a caramel apple only to have my hopes dashed by a pot of burnt sugar. No sir. And super bonus, most candy aisles now have bags of caramels that are already unwrapped (they're called caramel bits) which leaves you with absolutely no reason I can think of not to make these tonight. 

On a not caramel apple related note: I've been busy busy writing for a few side projects with a few of my favorite recipes that I don't want you guys to miss. 

If you are looking for back to school recipes: here are 5 of my favorites. 

If cheese is your thing: I stuff mushrooms with three kinds of it here. 

And if leafy greens make you nervous: these enchiladas will calm all of your fears.  

Caramel Apples with Pretzel Toffee Crunch

| Ingredients

  • 2 cups mini pretzels 
  • 1/4 cup toffee bits (without chocolate) 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 11 oz. bag caramels
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 4 apples 
  • 4 popscile sticks

| Instructions | 

  • Preheat oven to 300. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. 
  • Place the pretzels in a ziploc bag and crush using a rolling pin or the back of a measuring cup. Combine the crushed pretzels with the toffee bits and brown sugar in a bowl. Pour the melted butter over and toss to coat. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. The toffee will harden as it cools and form a brittle. I put my pan in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. 
  • Once the pretzel toffee mixture has cooled, chop it finely with a large knife. Large pieces will slide down the apple before they caramel hardens leaving you with a naked apple, so I recommend chopping it pretty finely. 
  • Line a baking sheet with a silpat or cooking spray coated parchment (things are going to get sticky). Heat the caramels and water in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth. One at a time, dip the apples into the caramel, reaching as high up the sides of the apple as you prefer. Allow the excess caramel to drip back into the pan. Roll the dipped apple in the pretzel toffee crunch, pressing to adhere to the caramel. Check for any bare spots and stick a few pieces of crunch onto them. Put finished apples on the prepared baking sheet and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 
  • Store apples in the refrigerator. Remove 15 minutes before serving to allow the caramel to soften slightly.