Red Wine Caramel Apples

Cover recipe from Gourmet, October 2009
Red Wine Caramel Apples

CaramelApples2Certainly you’ve heard the big news by now.  Gourmet magazine is packing it up and closing its covers forever.  I’ve rather enjoyed this publication led by Editor in Chief Ruth Reichl.  It’s one that I actually still subscribe to, and I’ll miss its monthly arrival in my mailbox.  I might read a column or two, but admittedly I’m not a big reader of the feature articles… I’m just here for the recipes (so online access will be probably be satisfactory for me).  

A big fan of all things caramel, I’m actually not a fan of caramel apples at all.  But when I read that these were made with a reduction of red wine incorporated into the caramel, it sounded unique enough to want to give the recipe a try.   The recipe requires attention, stirring the caramel along and keeping an eye on the candy thermometer until it arrives at the desired temperature.  The mixture is then left to cool off (and thicken) for a short time before dunking the apples.  The first apple I dipped wouldn’t hold the caramel very well- it mostly slid off the apple and puddled onto the wax paper (the caramel was still too warm).  After letting it sit longer, the caramel coated the apples a little better.  I’d have to say that they aren’t a typical thick-coated caramel apple though, which made for easier, less messy attempts at biting into it.  The acidity in the wine balanced out the sweetness of the caramel, giving it a slightly tangy flavor.   I enjoyed the apple, though I did cut it into slices instead of attempting sloppy, dribbling bites out of a rounded surface.

CaramelApples3Red Wine Caramel Apples
Source:  Gourmet

small McIntosh apples, stemmed, washed well, and dried
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons heavy cream

8 wooden ice-pop sticks; a candy thermometer

1.  Insert a wooden stick halfway into each apple at stem end. Line a tray with wax paper and lightly grease paper.
2.  Boil wine in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
3.  Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 21/2- to 3-qt heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colors evenly, until dark amber. Add reduced wine (mixture will bubble up and steam) and swirl pan. Add cream and simmer, stirring, until incorporated, then continue to simmer until thermometer registers 238°F. Remove from heat and cool to 200°F.
4.  Holding apples by the sticks, dip them in caramel and swirl to coat, letting excess drip off, then hold apples up (stick end down) for about 15 seconds to allow more caramel to set on apples. Put caramel apples, stick side up, on greased wax paper and let stand until caramel firms up, about 30 minutes.

cooks’ note: If caramel becomes too thick to coat apples, reheat over low heat to loosen.

Yield:  Makes 8 caramel apples

Notes from Culinary Covers:
*The magazine notes that start to finish will take 1 hour, which is exactly how long it took for me.
*If the caramel is too thin, it will slide right off the apple.  I had to let mine sit for a while to thicken up a bit.  I actually enjoyed a lighter layer of caramel on the apple though since it’s tough to take a bite through a thick and gooey caramel layer.
*These might seem like they’d only be adult-friendly caramel apples, but my 8 year old ate one and enjoyed it (he did detect a different flavor though that he wasn’t able to pinpoint!)  Unless your kids are foodies though, I doubt whether they’d like these very much.
*If you were going to make these for an adult-themed party, my suggestion would be to use apples that are quite small.  They’d be easier to manage at a party, and most adults don’t like messy food when visiting with friends. 
*If I were serving these up at a party, I’d probably spring for white lollipop sticks instead of flat wooden ones, and I’d even wrap some ribbon around the sticks to add to the cute factor.
*I’m pretty sure these are best served the same day.  Mine didn’t look all that appetizing on the second day.

Did this recipe deserve the cover?  Yes- nice  theme for an October cover.  Brilliant idea to make these more of an “adult” caramel apple.  Since Gourmet isn’t/wasn’t a magazine meant for serving up crafty, kid-friendly recipes, this was an appropriate, seasonal feature for their target audience.

Lori is the founder of She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at

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12 Responses to “Red Wine Caramel Apples”

  1. 1

    VeggieGirl — October 29, 2009 @ 3:13 am

    I miss Gourmet dearly already :(

  2. 2

    Jennifer — October 29, 2009 @ 7:31 am

    This cover is one of my favorites. I also was intrigued by this recipe and am happy to read your favorable feedback.

  3. 3

    Aimee — October 29, 2009 @ 7:37 am

    Such a smart post, Lori and very helpful, thanks!

    I have a ‘grown-up’ party on Sunday and purchased a bunch of small apples for caramel apples. They are one of my favorite things and this recipe certainly seems to elevate them. I think I’ll be trying it out.

  4. 4

    noble pig — October 29, 2009 @ 7:38 am

    I was wondering about these, glad you made them. Your picture came out great.

  5. 5

    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — October 29, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

    Absolutely beautiful photo of the apples… Sounds like a great idea.

  6. 6

    Wendy — October 29, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

    Wow. They look good and I’m still interested in making them, although I’ve come up with a different idea.

    I’ve been thinking of having a fondue party. Would this make a good dessert dip if kept warm?

  7. 7

    Louise — October 29, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

    I too am going to miss Gourmet.

    Your Caramel Apples look sinfully good. Perfect for National Caramel Month!!!

    I adore your narratives Lori, such a nice touch:)

  8. 8

    Bridgett — October 30, 2009 @ 10:23 am

    Wow, these are stunning…almost too pretty to eat. Almost!

  9. 9

    Sues — October 30, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

    I’m more of a fan of the candy apples than I am the caramel ones, but the red wine addition definitely gives it lots of extra points. Yours is so pretty!

  10. 10

    Louise — October 31, 2009 @ 6:39 am

    Just had to tweet these today. It’s National Candy Apple Day!!! Have a FUN Halloween, Lori!!!

  11. 11

    cakebrain — October 31, 2009 @ 9:31 am

    these candy apples look gorgeous! the colours in the pic are so vibrant!

  12. 12

    Sophie — November 1, 2009 @ 7:27 am


    these apples look delectable!! I just gave you an awrd!! Why??? You can read it over at my latest post!!!! Come over & pick it up!!

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