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Maple Caramel Dip for apple slices

This amazing and delicious dip is a good reason to eat apples. Served annually at our Apple Fest in the Fall, we have finally decided to share its secret.

1¼ cups (300 mL) granulated sugar, divided
¼ cup (50 mL) water
1½ cup (375 mL) whipping cream
3 tbsp (45 mL) cornstarch
¼ cup (50 mL) maple syrup
1 tbsp (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp (2 mL) pure vanilla extract
6 to 8 large apples
1 to 1½ cups (250 to 375 mL) chopped toasted almonds, pecans, walnuts or coloured sprinkles
1. Heat 1 cup (250 mL) sugar and water in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil for about 10 minutes or until sugar caramelizes and becomes a rich golden brown colour. Pull off heat; carefully pour in whipping cream. Return to heat; stir to dissolve.

2. Stir cornstarch with remaining ¼ cup (50 mL) sugar. Stir into maple syrup until smooth; stir in lemon juice. Then stir into hot caramel mixture.

3. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 2 minutes or until thick and richly bubbling. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Core and slice apples. Serve caramel at room temperature for best dipping. Sauce keeps well for several days when covered and refrigerated. Slice apples when ready to serve. Serve apples with caramel and bowls of nuts or sprinkles for coating dipped slices.