The Baked Apple Improvisations

Maria Robledo’s Instagram of baked apples reminded me of my favorite baked apple recipe that I had at a dinner party one evening. They had an intense apple flavor brought out by modest ingredients: red current jelly, lemon juice and a little butter. Because the apples had been cored all the way through and covered during the cooking, the apples are tender to the point of collapsing, a state made charming by the addition of a dollop of crème fraiche,

Those Rosey Baked Apples were the start of many baked apple riffs, including Baked Apple Sorbet and Smashed Baked Apples with Brulleed Marshmallows, below. And there are lots of options for improvising on the basic recipe.

Maria Robledo

Maria Robledo

There is a wide range of sweeteners to choose from – each contributing its subtle flavor:  sugar (granulated, light or dark brown sugar, demerara or moscovado…); honey with its infinite range of flavors; maple syrup or maple sugar; jams, jellies or marmalades which add their own fruit flavors.  Sprinkling the apples with lemon juice is essential to bring out the apples’ true flavor. Baking apples need some moisture in the pan to become tender. This can be water, wine, from white and dessert wines to fortified wines such as Sherry and Marsala (diluted with water);  apple, orange and other fruit juices;  an herb tea, perhaps, such as lemon verbena or one with chail flavors.

Although the usual flavorings for baked apples are sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, the spice drawer holds many other possibilities; cracked coriander, white pepper, juniper berries, pink peppercorns, bay leaf, fennel seed. Used sparingly fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, basil and seasonal fragrant leaves such as lemon verbena, lavender and rose geranium compliment apples.  Slivered citrus zests – from orange to Meyer Lemon also contribute bright flavor notes.  The hollowed-out center of the apple invites all kinds of fillings: chopped dried fruits such a cherries, raisins, apricots…nuts like walnuts, pecans, pistachios, crystallized ginger, marzipan and so on.

Recipe/Method: Rosey Baked Apples

The addition of crème fraîche just before serving brings the simple elements together to make a memorable dessert.

6 servings

6 large cooking apples such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)

1/2 cup red current jelly

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/3 cup water

6 tablespoon crème fraîche or heavy cream, lightly whipped

Prepare the apples. Preheat the oven to 350’. Starting at the stem end, peel the apples half way down.  With the tip of a paring knife, score the remaining skin vertically (in the direction of the stem)  with 8 equidistant cuts.   Using an apple corer or melon baller, scoop out the core to form a tunnel that goes from stem to blossom ends.   Arrange the apples in a baking dish.

Dress the apples with sweetener and flavorings. Drizzle the apples with half the lemon juice.   Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the current jelly into the cavity of each apple, followed by 1 teaspoon of the butter and a little of the remaining lemon juice.

Add the basting liquid. Pour the water around the apples and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons current jelly. Sprinkle the apples with the sugar.  Cover with foil.

Bake. Bake, basting occasionally with the pan juices, until the apples are very tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to 475′ and bake 10 or 15 minutes longer until the apples are glazed and golden. Serve warm with some of their syrup and the crème fraîche.

 

Baked Apple Sorbet
This surprising sorbet requires no ice cream maker.  Baked apples are simply peeled, chopped and frozen; then pureed in a food processor; the apple’s abundance of pectin make them creamy.  It’s worth making a double batch of baked apples, one to eat warm and one to make into sorbet a few days later.

Prepare Rosy Baked Apples. Cool the apples, then remove the peels. Place on a cutting board and coarsely chop; then spread on a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Up to an hour before serving, puree the apples in a food processor, scraping down the sides occasionally,  until you have a creamy sorbet. Add fresh lemon juice and superfine sugar or honey to taste if necessary to brighten the flavor and process briefly. Serve at once or pack into a container and freeze.  To make a baked apple soft ice cream, blend in crème fraîche to taste.

Smashed Baked Apples with Bruléed Marshmallows
One evening I skinned and crushed the flesh of some leftover baked apples and made this gratin with the chunky roasted pulp; just-this-side-of-burnt marshmallows make a molten caramelized topping. It works fine with just about any baked apple recipe, such as Rosy Baked Apples or the Roasted Apples on page 00. Use this formula for as many apples as you have: For each apple, you’ll need 3 large marshmallows and about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemon segments (1/2 lemon’s worth. See page 00, How to Segment Citrus Fruits).

Remove the skin from the baked apples and coarsely smash the flesh. Transfer to a flameproof casserole and warm over a medium flame. Toss with the lemon segments.

Slice each marshmallow crosswise into thirds and arrange on top of the apples. Just before serving, place under a preheated broiler, 3 to 4 inches from the heat source and broil until the marshmallows are dark brown with tinges of black.

Baked Apple Sauce
Leftover baked apples make fine applesauce. Remove the peels and coarsely mash with a fork for a chunky applesauce, or puree in a food processor for a smooth sauce. Adjust the flavor by adding a pinch of salt or sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of apple cider vinegar.  Serve warm or cool.

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