I was never big into caramel apples when I was a kid, or even much as an adult, until a couple of years ago when my Chief Culinary Consultant and I took a quick weekend trip to Toronto during the fall. After visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame, we were walking through a shopping area and came across a store with some of the most exquisite-looking caramel apples I had ever seen. My sweet tooth couldn’t walk out of there without buying at least one apple (in actuality, I think I ended up with at least three), and I’ve been dreaming of caramel apples during this time of year ever since. Those apples were the inspiration behind my first homemade caramel apples, and they’re the first thing I thought of when I laid eyes on this dip recipe. It’s everything that’s fabulous about caramel apples, and it tastes like cheesecake. Total win.
When I think of appetizers and dips, my mind always ends up somewhere in the crosshairs of bacon, cheese and chips – all of which are food groups by my estimation. Sometimes, though, it’s fun to change things up a little bit and give your taste buds a little bit of shock therapy. I couldn’t eliminate cream cheese from the equation; I think it says in the dip bible that cream cheese must always be included. However, this sweet and slightly salty dip is the perfect snack for chilly fall afternoons watching football, a movie, or curling up with a good book. It’s different, it’s delicious, and hey – you’re eating apples! It’s almost like health food!
Line a 4-to-6-inch round pan or bowl (a 4-cup measuring cup even works!) with plastic wrap, using enough so that the excess hangs over the sides of the pan; set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until light and smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the powdered sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract and beat again until completely combined and smooth, another 1 to 2 minutes.
Spread half of the cream cheese mixture into the plastic wrap-lined pan, smoothing it into an even layer. Top with half of the caramel sauce, spreading it to within a ½-inch of the sides of the pan. Sprinkle with half of the Heath bits and mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and top with the remaining cream cheese mixture, spreading it in an even layer to the edges of the pan. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the top of the cream cheese. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
When ready to serve, remove the pan from the refrigerator, pull back the plastic wrap and invert into the center of a serving plate. Remove the remaining plastic wrap. Top with the remaining caramel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Heath bits and mini chocolate chips. Serve with apple slices. Refrigerate any leftovers.