Andrew of Spittoon Extra has picked a very fun and timely theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday: Apples and alcohol. Timely because the markets are overflowing with all sorts of apples in their round-cheeked, rosy-skinned glory, and fun because, well, spirits always make things a little more fun.
I also found the perfect recipe to celebrate apples and the increasingly nippy weather. (Apologies to those who are already moving from autumn’s soft shivers to winter’s frosty grip: we have just had our first weekend where you wake up to a brilliant, hard-etched blue shell of a sky outside the window and realize, as you throw back the covers to jump out of bed, that you’re not emerging into any toasty beams of morning sunlight, but instead the air hitting your sleep-warmed body is rather…cold, and you’re scrambling for slippers and a robe before your mind can even register that it’s no longer summer anymore.) When I get home now from work, it’s not to a sunlit or even grey-fogged afternoon, with sunset still hours off; now it’s purple and crimson sky fading to black, myriad lights already coruscating in a city half shadowed. At this moment, my apartment seems cozier than ever, and the best thing I can imagine is to fill it up with the murmur of music and the smell of something in the oven.
This recipe, from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course, certainly fits the last bill: the scent of baking apples, caramelizing brown sugar, and toasting nuts is as heavenly a paean to fall as I can imagine. It’s amazingly satisfying, too, for surprisingly little work. Apples, carefully hollowed out, are filled with a mixture of sugar, nuts, dried fruit, and butter, and placed in the oven to bake into little cups of fall bliss. Fleming’s recipes doesn’t use any spices, instead relying on the brown sugar and butter to infuse the apple with sweet caramel flavor, but I think a sprinkling some cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice would go wonderfully with the recipe. The toasted pecans and almonds add crunchy interest, and the dried cherries a vivid sweet punctuation to the dessert. Again, this recipe seems ripe for adaption: walnuts, dried cranberries or dried figs spring to mind as lovely substitutions.
When baking apples, pick firmer ones that will hold up in the oven – you don’t want them to turn to mush. Fleming suggests Cortland; McIntosh, Empire, and Gala work well too. Of course, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are old standbys, but if you can find some other varieties try them out: many of them have their own distinctive, lovely flavors. I used Pippin apples, which are crisp and slightly less tart than Granny Smith, and turn nicely tender but not mushy in the oven.
So where’s the alcohol? In a Calvados caramel sauce made to drizzled over and around the oven-hot apples. The apple brandy adds a smooth richness to the sweet caramel and turns the baked apple from simple treat to luxe dessert. I realized when I was thinking of how to plate my apples, that with all the different colors, shapes, and textures of the components, it was almost like a modern art piece. So I present to you: Autumn Whimsy in Apple and Caramel. I like to think of it as a colorful little ode to fall.
By the way, I found out about this after I’d already made the apples, so I couldn’t incorporate it into SHF, but if you are looking for a really nice combination of apples and alcohol, I would recommend Lindemans Pomme apple lambic: I’m normally not a big beer drinker, but this is like a sweet fizzy cider. Maybe too sweet for regular beer drinkers, but for someone with a sweet tooth, it’s quite a tasty way to imbibe.
Baked Apples with Dried Fruits and Nuts
adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course
makes 6 servings
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons dried cherries, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds, roughly chopped and toasted
2 Tablespoons pecans, roughly chopped and toasted
6 large, firm baking apples, cored but not peeled
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup apple cider
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the brown sugar, cherries, and nuts in a small bowl.
Place the apples in a baking dish large enough to hold them all comfortably. Fill the apple cavities with the sugar mixture (When the apples bake, the mixture will melt and sink slightly, so you might want to reserve some to top the apples when you pull them out).
Break the butter into six equal pieces and place one of top of the filling of each apple.
Pour the cider into the bottom of the baking dish.
Bake apples for about 25 to 30 minutes, basting the apples every 5 to 7 minutes with cider. The apples should become tender but not mushy.
When the apples are ready, remove from the oven and carefully move to a plate or individual dishes before serving with the Calvados caramel sauce.
Calvados Caramel Sauce
adapted from Emily Luchetti’s A Passion for Ice Cream
makes about 3/4 cup
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon Calvados or apple brandy
pinch of salt
1/2 oz (1 Tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat on stove until sugar dissolves.
Turn heat to high and cook sugar until it is golden brown in color. Remove saucepan from heat and pour in the cream slowly – the caramel will bubble and sputter so don’t dump in the cream too quickly.
Stir the mixture until the cream is incorporated – if it starts to harden place back on heat briefly to make the caramel melt.
Add in the butter and stir until completely incorporated.
Let cool and refrigerate until ready to use. You can reheat it if it firms up too much.
Tagged with: SHF + SHF #36 + apples + Claudia Fleming + baked apples+ Emily Luchetti + Calvados caramel sauce
I LOVE that last picture…the pattern of the drizzle made the picture very eye catching!
Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy says
Caramel and apples, my favorite. I miss being able to get one for Halloween!
I think what makes this is the beautiful presentation you did, though. I love the “aerial” pic. 🙂
how nice they are!! need to try, maybe with pears, I have some at home! i love your blog!
what a beautiful way to greet Autumn 🙂
Your apples look more like peaches. They are beautiful. Thanks for the tip on the kind of apples that are more appropriate for baking. My last attempt was on the mushy side. Now I know why!
Oh love baked apples and perfect for fall!
I love this recipe! You’re right. It is a perfect ode to Fall. I also love your presentation. Very charming!
Big Boys Oven says
So lovely, so elegant, so unique, such a desirable apples…..
Some music on and something in the oven…that’s my idea of heaven as well. Your apples look so cute…I love serving fruit as its own bowl!
On the subject of apple variety, I recently heard there were over 2000 types of British apple but you only ever get about 5 in the shops(I’m in England)and they’re imported.
Oh yeh, the weather finally got cooler again and your idea of music in the background coupled with the scent of baking apples in the oven is simply perfect!
Those apples look great and the sauce is fantastic! Love that photo from on top.
Beautiful dessert! I love the way you’ve drizzled calvados caramel sauce on the plate!
Mmm, I bet those smelled heavenly! I agree–having a cozy space does make baking extra wonderful because of the aroma that fills it!
Its still really hot here in Ghana, but i’ll be heading off to HK in a few days , so yes i’ll be a pleasant chance to be in the cold weather…besides HK is never too cold…its perfect. I may be in town in Dec …so cant wait to meet u.
Love the presentation of this one. It looks tooo pretty to eat.I’ve never eaten a whole baked apple.Because of being in warmer countries i always opt for cold desserts so i miss out on a whole lot of the warm ones :)I’m glad blogging is teaching me new things everyday.
Once again i must commend on how u give every detail as to how to make the perfect dish. Any novice can read just once and get it right 🙂 Thanks !
Mele Cotte (Baked Apples)! Love Baked Apples! 🙂 Not that I have bias or anything. These look delicious! Bookmarked!
pure quality – and that’s just the photographs!
It would be a shame to eat them and mess up the plate.
They would go nice with a good vanilla ice cream I think.
Thank you! I had fun making it!
Thank you! I hope you had a good Halloween – I hear it’s becoming more popular in Italy!
thank you! Mmm, baked pears sound lovely too!
Thank you! We don’t get as much of the changing colors for fall so I make do in the kitchen!
Thank you! The variety of apples at the market was amazing, it was fun to pick the best-looking (and baking) ones!
Thank you! I am going through an apple phase right now!
Thank you! I had fun indulging my artistic side!
Thank you! I love baking with apples!
Thank you! I always loved the idea of the “edible bowl!”
That’s amazing – before I started going to farmers’ markets, I only thought there were about 5 types of apples too. So eye-opening to see what else is out there!
It’s starting to get chilly here- hope you’re staying warm in your ever-busy kitchen!
Thank you! It was fun to put together.
Thank you! I was being very “modern art” when I did it!
Thank you! Yes, my apartment fills up with the smells of baking very fast – I don’t realize it until I step outside and come back in!
Thank you so much for your sweet compliments! Hope we do get to meet up and talk about baking!!
I didn’t realize that about your name! How wonderful:) I hereby dedicate these apples to you!
Thank you! and thank you for picking such a great theme for SHF!
I actually made an apple caramel ice cream to go with it – but I couldn’t fit it into the picture. I don’t mind if it gets messed up – it’s part of the fun of eating it!
Mmmmm these apples look delicious. I almost want to lick my screen when looking at your photos. Wonderful as always.