It’s time to revisit the baked apple and rescue it from the depths of our grannies’ recipe box. Baked apples range from simple weeknight affairs to zhuzhed-up desserts fit for a socially distanced autumn dinner party. And they can be a much lighter, but equally delicious, option than apple pie (not that there is anything wrong with apple pie).
So why has the humble baked apple been forgotten when it is such a genius dish?
Reasons to love baked apples
- Baked apples are simple to prepare. Remove the core, no need to peel. Presto—done.
- Come fall we usually have apples in the crisper and other ingredients like butter, sugar, and cinnamon, in the pantry. A good recipe to pull out in an emergency.
- It’s one of the most affordable desserts you can make—apples can cost as little as 25 cents apiece, although some organic and heirloom varies may be more.
- They can be dressed up for a party.
- It’s almost guilt free…
- …yet still delicious.
Everything you need to know to make genius baked apples
The right apple variety
There are apples for eating, apples for sauce, and apples for baking. For baked apples we want them to tempt us with a rich color, nice shape, appealing fragrance, and full fruit flavor.
Choosing the right apple is the key to a good baked apple. McIntosh, Cortland, and Macoun turn to mush. Granny Smith will taste sour. Red Delicious, Gala, and Fuji lose much of their flavor when baked.
Cookbook author Nancy Baggett tested over 30 different kinds of apples to find the best for making whole baked apples. Five made the final cut.
And since they are baked with the skin on, choose organic when possible.
The right way to prepare the apple before baking
- Wash the apple
- Without peeling, remove the stem and core. A special apple corer makes this easy or use a small paring knife.
- Take a small piece of the core and wedge it at the bottom of the apple. This plug will help the filling stay inside the apple and retain its flavorsome juices.
- Use a fork to prick the apple in two or three places to prevent the fruit from bursting when cooking.
The classic baked apple
Let’s be honest. The perfect, classic baked apple is the one your mom or grandmother made during your happiest childhood days. For the sake of argument, however, we designate the baked apple from the Joy of Cooking as the common denominator.
- 4 baking apples
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 375° F/180°
- Prepare apples as described above.
- Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Fill the centers with this mixture.
- Cut the butter into 4 pieces. Top the filling with a pat of butter each.
- Place the apples in a baking dish. Pour about ¾ cup of boiling water around the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the apples are soft but not mushy.
- Remove apples from the oven and baste them with pan juices. Serve hot or chilled, as is or with ice cream, caramel, or a drizzle of honey.
Serves 4 persons (or one Lab)
Now kick it up a notch
A recent article in French magazine Cuisine Actuelle encourages cooks to create “the baked apple of their fantasies” by experimenting with different combinations of ingredients, keeping in mind the fat-and-sweet element that makes a baked apple what it is. Honey or maple syrup can substitute for the brown sugar. Butter can be replaced with coconut oil. The apple is a bland canvas waiting for your creative strokes.
Honey baked apples
- Prepare 4 apples as described above.
- Place the apples in an oven-proof dish and drizzle them with liquid honey. Place a knob of butter on each apple and bake for 20 minutes.
- Baste with the cooking juices on the apples then continue baking for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Baste with pan juices, then sprinkle with sliced almonds. Serve.
Carambar baked apples
Carambar is a French caramel candy, similar in texture to the Tootsie Roll. Since Carambar is not easily available in U.S. markets we used pieces of Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramels, about 2 per apple.
- Cut off the cap of the apples then hollow them out using an apple corer, keeping part of the core to plug the bottom.
- Arrange them in a buttered oven dish. Place a caramel or two and a knob of butter in each apple.
- Bake for 30 minutes, basting the apples from time to time with their cooking juices. Remove from the oven. There should be a melted puddle of caramel in the middle. Serve warm.
Baked apple with pistachio and crumble
In this recipe the apples are peeled and coated with a spiced syrup, then sprinkled with chopped pistachios before baking. Before serving, top each apple with a mound of crumble.
For the crumble
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup almond powder
- 4 ounces butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
For the baked apple
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon muscovado or dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
- 2 tablespoons semi-salted butter
- 4 tablespoons roasted, chopped pistachios
- Prepare the crumble (make ahead): in a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the crumble. Place the crumble on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 350°/180 ° C. It must be golden brown.
- Prepare the apples: Remove skin from the apples with an apple peeler making concentric circles around the apple as you peel. Place apples in a baking dish.
- In a small saucepan, heat the honey, muscovado sugar, cinnamon, butter, and vanilla sugar until sugars are dissolved. Brush the apples with this preparation. Sprinkle with roasted pistachios.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes depending on the desired doneness. Every 15 minutes sprinkle the apples generously with the cooking juices.
- Remove apples from the oven and let cool slightly. Drizzle the apples generously with the cooking juices. Sprinkle with the crumble. Serve warm as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Baked apples with herbs and agave syrup
A mix of savory and sweet, by substituting agave syrup for sugar these apples have a lower glycemic score. This recipe also bakes at a higher temperature.
- 4 apples
- 4 sage leaves
- 4 rosemary branches
- 3 thyme branches
- 4 tablespoons agave syrup
- Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 ° C.
- Prepare the apples as above.
- Remove sage and thyme leaves from their stems, then finely chop them with a knife or food processor. Cut the rosemary branches so they stand about 1 to 2 inches above the apple.
- Drizzle the apples with agave syrup, roll them in the chopped herbs, and place them in a baking dish. Place a rosemary branch in the cavity of each apple.
- Bake for 20 min. Sprinkle with the cooking juices after 10 minutes of cooking. Serve hot or warm.
Baked apples with dried fruits and nuts
This recipe should have a fancy name, something like Pommes Roti Royale, because it is filled with a mixture fit for a king and queen.
- 4 apples
- 1/3 cup combined nuts: pecans, pistachios, slivered almonds, and walnut kernels
- 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoons whole almonds
- 4 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 425° F/220 ° C.
- Prepare apples as above.
- Place apples in a gratin dish and fit tightly together. Fill the cavities with a mix of nuts, cranberries, whole almonds, and2 tablespoons powdered sugar. Place a knob of butter on top. Bake for 20 minutes.
- When the apples are soft but not mushy, remove from oven, baste with pan juices. Sprinkle with remaining powdered sugar before serving.
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