Salted-Caramel Apple Dip Appetizer
This easy appetizer recipe can be ready in about 5 minutes if you purchase the salted caramel sauce. However, many ready-made varieties contain artificial preservatives, flavorings, and high-fructose corn syrup. Making your own homemade caramel sauce may take a little extra time, but the results are well worth the effort.
Crisp green and red apples, cut into wedges to serve
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
Salted caramel sauce* (recipe below or use your favorite prepared caramel sauce)
2/3 c. pecans, chopped
Salted Caramel Sauce: ½ c. heavy cream
1 c. white sugar
2 T. water
4 T. unsalted butter
1 t. fleur de sel salt
Preheat oven to lowest setting
In a glass bowl, toss sliced apple wedges with fresh lemon juice to prevent browning. Set aside.
To prepare the salted caramel sauce, warm the heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat. (The goal is to slightly warm the cream because cold dairy product can curdle when added to hot liquids).
Add the sugar and water to a heavy-bottomed oven-safe saucepan and stir to combine. Set spoon aside and do not stir the sugar mixture again.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. If sugar crystals remain on the sides of the pan, gently brush them back down with a moistened silicon baking brush.
Continue boiling until the mixture turns a nice amber color. If a dark spot forms on one side due to uneven heating, lift the pan and gently swirl until the color is even again. Return pan to the burner and reduce heat.
Slowly whisk in the warmed cream until thoroughly incorporated. Be very careful while doing so because the extremely hot sugar mixture will bubble up when the cooler cream is added.
Remove from heat and add butter and salt. Stir with a clean spoon until butter is totally incorporated into the mixture. Do not reuse the same spoon from earlier because reintroducing sugar crystals to the pan can cause your caramel sauce to crystalize as it cools.
Place saucepan into pre-heated oven until ready to use.
To assemble the dip, place block of softened cream cheese on a serving plate. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with chopped pecans. Serve with crispy sliced apples and additional caramel sauce for dipping.
For a more decorative presentation, shape the block of cream cheese into a circle before topping with a liberal amount of caramel sauce. Cover caramel-coated cream cheese circle entirely with chopped pecans, then arrange apple wedges around the cheese to form an edible “flower.” The excess caramel sauce on the plate will help hold the apple slices in place.
Tip: When making caramel sauce, pay careful attention as the color deepens from clear to amber. If you allow it to cook too long, the sauce can become too dark and will have an unpleasant, almost “burnt” taste to it. At that point, the only thing you can do is start over.