Friday, October 21, 2011

Baked Apples

Fall is here.  As much as I hate to say goodbye to the warmth of the summer sun, seasons are real in Wisconsin, and I have chosen to live here.  I CHOSE to live here?  I am an idiot.  But I digress.  With fall comes cooler temps, gorgeous colors, and a great excuse to heat the house with the oven.  So I get to do a lot more baking!  Also with fall comes fall tastes in the home - soups, cream, cinnamon, apples, squash... So many great things we don't get at other times of the year, right?  Hey, I am trying to look on the bright side, here.

As a kid growing up in California, I never had to deal with the extreme cold that is the north/midwest/hinterlands.  However, as it cooled outside, my dad and I did do a few things differently, mainly cooking warm things.  One of those was baked apples.  My dad was pretty much a fly by the seat of your pants cook (read: no planning and no training).  If he couldn't "throw" it together, we didn't eat it.  There is a reason I took over in the cooking department at a young age.  One thing he did make that totally rocked, though, was baked apples.  We would alternately make them in the oven or in the microwave depending on our patience level, but either way, the results were fabulous and for a seriously minimal amount of effort.  I set out to recreate this childhood favorite the way I remember it...

Baked Apples:
4 Granny smith apples (if you prefer, try a spicy apple such as a Mcintosh.  This does NOT lend itself well to soft or sweet apples like red delicious, although some people would argue with me)
Brown sugar

1) Core the apples.  Score the peel with a paring knife down the sides in quarters and across the middle.

Bad drawing, but act like you were going to cut the apple in quarters and then in half across the middle, but only just score the peel.  It will  allow the juices to get out a little and make the apple easier to eat later.

Place them in an 8x8 baking dish.  If the bottoms are not flat on the bottom of the baking dish, cut a small slice off to make them sit flat.  This will keep the yumminess from leaking out.
2)  In the center of each apple, put 1T of brown sugar, about 1/4t cinnamon and 1T of butter.
3)  Put in 350 degree oven.  After 15-20 minutes of baking, check the apples.  They should have released some juices in the bottom of the pan.  Baste the apples with their juices and continue to bake, basting occasionally until apples are tender but not mushy, about one hour total depending on the size of your apples.
4) Cool the apples for about 5 minutes.  Using a spoon or solid spatula so you don't loose all the goodies inside, scoop the apples into a bowl.  Enjoy!

There are lots of variations - baking the apples in a little bit (1c or so) of OJ (add more sugar to this one or they will come out tart - granulated sugar works well), adding raisins or other dried fruit and various nuts to the mix, adding spices like nutmeg... Explore what you like and what your family likes.  You can serve them as is, with ice cream, whipped cream, or in just about any iteration.  This is so simple and will heat up your kitchen nicely for the cool evenings.  Its also a great way to make your house SMELL fantastic! :-)

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