Here are a few tips I picked up on while making caramel apples with candy toppings with our young family. Caramel apples don't have to be plain or only with peanuts. Don't limit your imagination. Let your inner artist out and choose any 'ol topping you'd like and mix them in infinite combinations. We chose white chocolate chips, pecan pieces, mixed nuts, honey roasted nuts, dark chocolate chips, peanut butter/milk chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, dark chocolate m & ms, cinnamon candies, and candy corn. Next time I might try graham cracker crumbs, crushed oreos, or reeces pieces.
Get all of your toppings set out before preparing your caramel. Taste test your toppings by eating half the supply as you set up. Hot apple cider or hot chocolate compliment this family activity very well. Cut out squares of waxed paper on a jelly roll pan and make room in the fridge. Use farmer's market apples or apples that have not had wax added to them. Wax makes it harder to coat with caramel. If your apples have wax, you can quickly dip in boiling water and wipe to get the wax off. Also, refrigerated apples set the caramel better. Do your best to pull the stems out (we had trouble with this) and put your sticks in. Make sure you have batteries and memory in your camera.
Either melt all the caramel at once, or half a 14 oz. bag at a time. I microwave 1/2 bag with 1 tbsp milk for 60 seconds, then stir with a wooden spoon and put it back in for 30 more seconds. Stir until it's all melted. It will be hot, so adults should coat the apples and then help the little ones dip them in the toppings. Work quickly as the caramel will harden pretty fast. Don't wait until all apples are done to refrigerate them. Put each one in the fridge as you finish them or the candies will start to melt and slide off of the apples.
Refrigerated apples can last 2 weeks, unrefrigerated - for about a week. Give away as gifts by placing them in cellophane bags and tie with ribbons (perhaps give to teachers or team mates if you participate in a Buddy Walk).
Besides being a hoot and a holler (and finding out that Sophie can devour candy corn by the fist full - who knew?) this is not necessarily an unhealthy treat, as long as you consume in moderation of course. The point is, have fun with it, be creative and get messy with your family. These are the times we live for.