My big brother and my two adorable nieces are in town for a little visit this week so I handed the baby off to his dad during our older son's nap in order to pull together a simple but tasty dinner of grilled cheeseburgers with avocado and tomato, the world's best oven fries, a green salad with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas, and even (gasp!) dessert.
I decided to make baked apples for three reasons: (1) They are yummy and comforting and warm, (2) It is apple season and the Hudson Valley is bursting with delicious, crisp, sweet-tart fruit, and, (3) Perhaps most importantly, they are amazingly easy to make.
I think baked apples are good pretty much any way but I included crystallized ginger to spice things up a bit (my husband loves ginger) along with some toasted pecans we had leftover from another meal.
The rest was easy – brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, butter, and some fresh apple cider that we got at a wonderful cider press party we'd gone to a few days earlier.
I mixed up the filling in a bowl and then cored the apples, stopping an inch above the bottom to avoid going all the way through. I stuffed the apples with the filling and topped them with butter. I arranged them in a baking dish so that none would tip over while baking, and poured some cider into the bottom of the dish. Finally, I topped the whole dish with foil and put the apples into the oven for a while.
My advice: Eat with ice cream. The wonderful syrupy, spiced cider mix perfectly with the melting vanilla ice cream – it makes a great companion to the soft, sweet, slightly tart flesh of the apple and the sugary, nutty, gingery filling. It's simply a delightful and easy-to-make fall treat!
Baked Apples With Candied Ginger & Toasted Pecans
4 large, fresh baking apples (Rome, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoons butter
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup apple cider (or water if you don't have cider)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wash your apples then remove their cores to about 1/2 inch above the bottom of the apple. I used an apple corer in combination with a small, sharp paring knife – it was kind of messy/clumsy but worked. You should have a hole roughly an inch wide that does not go all the way through the apple.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and pecans. Place the apples in a small baking pan – you want one small enough to keep all the apples upright but not so small that they're crowded – they'll bake better if they're not touching. Stuff each apple with the filling mixture and top with a small pat of butter.
3. Add the cider (or water) to the baking dish and bake the apples for 30-40 minutes, taking them out several times to baste them with the cider in the bottom of the dish, until they are tender, but not mushy. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.