Back to basics: an old-fashioned way to prepare apples

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``There is nothing in the way of fruit half so good as baked apples.'' -- Jane Austen

As we look for new ways to cook autumn's abundant crop of apples, we often forget one of the oldest, most basic, and most delectable apple preparation of all: baked apples.

Baked apples provide us not only with dessert possibilities, but also with side dishes, cold weather snacks, and breakfast treats.

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And there are a surprising variety of recipes to suit every taste and whim -- apples flavored with honey, cider, molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, and orange or lemon juice, just to name a few.

Rome Beauties and Red Delicious are two varieties of apples recommended for baking, because they are flavorful and, most important, they hold their shape when baked.

Blander apples can be made tastier by using one of the fillings and/or toppings mentioned here. Baked Stuffed Apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove cores from as many apples as you plan to serve. Place apples in a baking dish and pour in enough water, cider, or other desired liquid to cover bottom of dish with 1/4 inch of liquid.

Combine ingredients for the filling (from the list below) and fill apples. Dot with butter if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, basting with the baking liquid several times during the baking.

Serve hot or cold with plain cream, whipped cream, ice cream, whipped topping or custard, lemon, or cider sauce. Fillings for Baked Apples: Whole cranberry sauce Chopped dates, nuts, and jam Cookie crumbs, marmalade, and raisins Pitted prunes that have been cooked with sugar and lemon juice Apple butter, bread crumbs, and raisins Dates, chopped pecans, and orange peel Baked Apples (Slow Cooker Method) 8 Rome Beauty or other baking apples 1 cup granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg 1 cup water 2 slices lemon

Wash and core apples. Starting at stem end, peel apples about 1/3 of the way down.

Put apples in cooker, stacking to fit. Mix sugar and spice. Add the water and lemon slices and boil 5 minutes. Pour over apples. Cover cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or overnight.

Serve with syrup. (If desired, centers of apples can be filled with chopped nuts and raisins or dates, or raisins only before baking.)

Serves 8. Apple Petals

Instead of peeling apples, cut each cored apple into 6 wedges just halfway down and bake. Serve hot topped with a spoonful of pasteurized process cheese spread. Maple Baked Apples Supreme 6 medium to large Rome Beauty or other baking apples 2/3 cup chopped almonds 1/2 cup maple syrup 1/2 cup cider or apple juice 3 tablespoons butter or margarine Nutmeg Ice cream, sour cream, or yogurt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

If necessary, remove small slice from base of apples so they will stand upright. Core within 1/2 inch of bottom. Make shallow cut around middle of apple to allow for expansion during cooking. Fill center evenly with nuts.

Set apples in shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them without touching.

Heat syrup, juice, and butter in small saucepan until butter is melted and mixture is well blended. Pour over and around apples. Sprinkle tops with nutmeg.

Bake about 40 minutes, or until apples are tender, basting often. Serve warm with ice cream, sour cream, or yogurt. Serves 6. Baked Apples With Mincemeat 6 apples 1/3 cup mincemeat Juice of 1 lemon 3 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons honey Light cream

Wash apples and core without cutting through stem end. Hollow out apples, leaving a 1/2-inch shell. Chop pulp fine and combine with mincemeat and lemon rind. Mix well and fill apples.

Arrange in baking dish with lemon juice and water to make 1/2 cup liquid. Sprinkle apples with sugar, then drizzle with honey.

Basting occasionally, bake in 350-degrees F. oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until tender. Serve slightly warm with light cream.

Serves 6. Cheese-Baked Apples 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 2 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup water 1 tablespoon lemon juice 6 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in water and lemon juice. Add apples. Stir to coat.

Arrange apples in a 9-inch pie plate. Drizzle sugar mixture over all.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F. until apples are tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, 5 minutes more.

Serves 6. Frosted Baked Apples

Follow recipe for Maple Baked Apples, except roll each apple in melted butter, then in sugar and shredded coconut before baking. Surround with syrup. Do NOT baste. Cover.

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