Homemade Caramel Apple Pops

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This morning as I sat at my new kitchen table cutting strips of wax paper into squares to wrap caramels,  I realized that I’ve made eight batches of apple cider caramels this fall, each time telling myself that I’ll put this recipe up here on my blog and never doing it.

First, I wanted to use this recipe as a way to announce that I’ve moved back to Washington, where I’m back within driving distance of my parents apple orchard. But my move to Seattle happened two months ago, so that is old news.  Then, as October came along I thought about how the crisp apple flavor in these caramels was perfect for a homemade take on a halloween classic: the caramel apple pop, which was an even better use for the 50+ gallons of cider I had pressed this season. Yummmy! Homemade caramel apple pops are a mouth-watering (and teeth-saving!) improvement on the original.  But now apple season is coming to a close and if I wait any longer to tell you about these, you won’t be able to make them. So without further ado, here is the best apple cider hack there is!

And since this post is all about overdue sharing of awesomeness, here’s a song I’ve had on repeat for far too long:

Hot Chip – Dark and Stormy

Homemade Caramel Apple Pops
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I love this recipe both as apple cider caramels or as caramel apple pops, so I’ve listed instructions for both. The recipe stays the same, just the temperature and special tools change. Don’t skip this one just because you don’t have the materials for lollipops!

4 cups apple cider (non-alcoholic, from a farmer or the refrigerated section of your grocery store)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

Special tools
candy thermometer
lollipop molds, silicone macaron mat, or a sheet of parchment paper
lollipop sticks

For Lollipops:

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In a saucepan boil the apple cider until it reduces to a dark, thick syrup, about ⅓ to ½ cup in volume. If you have a non-stick saucepan I recommend using it, as it makes cleanup much easier.

While the apple cider is reducing, prepare the rest of your ingredients and lollipop mold. In my tests, I found that the silicone mat made the prettiest little lollipops, but the thick ones made in the lollipop mold held their shape longer while eating them. So, it just depends on what you have and what you’re going for.

After about 40 minutes, remove the apple cider from heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Affix a candy thermometer to the side and return the pot to the heat and boil until the thermometer reaches 260 degrees. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, have a bowl of ice water ready and cook the caramel until a tiny spoonful dropped into the water can be plied into a ball that  deforms only slightly with very firm pressure)

Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon and salt, and give the caramel several stirs to distribute.

Using a teaspoon, drop caramel into the prepared molds. Allow them to cool on the countertop or fridge. Enjoy!

 For Cider Caramels:

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In a saucepan boil the apple cider until it reduces to a dark, thick syrup, about ⅓ to ½ cup in volume. If you have a non-stick saucepan I recommend using it, as it makes cleanup much easier.

While the apple cider is reducing, prepare the rest of your ingredients and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

After about 40 minutes, remove the apple cider from heat and stir in the butter, sugars, and heavy cream. Affix a candy thermometer to the side and return the pot to the heat and boil until the thermometer reaches 253 degrees. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, have a bowl of ice water ready and cook the caramel until a tiny spoonful dropped into the water can be plied into a ball.)

Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the cinnamon and give the caramel several stirs to distribute it evenly. Pour caramel into the parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle flaky sea salt on top. Refrigerate until cool.

Once the caramel has cooled, cut it into individual pieces using a well-oiled knife and wrap in wax paper.

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