An Apple a Day …

There is something very stately about a baked apple. Alone on the plate, plump with brown sugar, raisins and spice, a glaze of cool cream gilding its perfection, it stands regally, uncompromising, daring to be nothing more than itself.

The time couldn't be better for replaying this old standard, for the best baking apple nature has to offer is waiting on area produce counters. The Rome Beauty, a bulbous behemoth with a sheen so enticing you would swear it was harvested by Eve, offers flesh of the palest green with a light bite of lemon.

Certainly, the Rome is a pleasant-enough eating apple, though it's never crisp or bursting with juice. Yet, once baked, its seeming mediocrity blossoms into a fragrant fruit custard — silken as mousse and subtly flavored with apple blossoms and honey.

Other apples, such as McIntosh, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith can be baked, but none of them come out like a Rome.

To prepare an apple for baking, remove the peel with a vegetable peeler, starting at the stem end and progressing in a spiral around the apple until all of the peel has been removed but the last inch or so. Rub any exposed surface of fruit with lemon juice or a bit of apple-cider vinegar as soon as possible to keep it from discoloring.

Cut out the stem and core with an apple corer, but do not cut through the bottom. Instead, leave an inch or more of fruit at the floor of the cavity to hold any filling you may be using. Stuff the cavity immediately to keep the exposed fruit from oxidizing.

Baked apples can be stuffed with anything. Sweetened dried fruit and nuts are traditional, but don't stop there. Try savory fillings of turkey and cranberries, or sweet-and-sour beef. You can also bake apples with sweet root vegetables, like carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and onions.

When stuffing a baked apple for the main course, you may want the proportion of filling to fruit to lean heavier toward the stuffing. In that case, make the interior cavity bigger by enlarging the hole made by the corer with the the small bowl of a melon baller. Work carefully so that you don't break through the exterior, and continually turn the apple as you hollow in order to get an even wall of fruit all of the way around.

The following recipes all use Rome apples, but they'll work with another variety. All recipes call for peeled and cored apples. Make sure that the apples are treated with lemon juice or cider vinegar, as described above, to ensure that they do not discolor.

Lemon-Glazed Baked Apples

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsps. sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. pareve margarine
4 Rome apples, peeled and cored

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the lemon juice, honey, ginger and sugar. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Add the raisins, vanilla, salt and margarine, and set aside for 30 minutes.

Fill the cored apples with the raisins and brush some of the glaze over the peeled surface of the apples.

Place in a baking dish and bake for about 1 hour, until tender, brushing with more glaze every 15 minutes of baking.

When the apples are soft, remove from the oven. Brush with any browned glaze that has collected on the bottom of the pan.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Bourbon-and-Brown-Sugar Baked Apples

1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
2 Tbsps. bourbon
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. pareve margarine
4 Rome Apples, peeled and cored
4 cinnamon sticks

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar and water; stir to dissolve. Bring to a simmer.

Add the salt, bourbon, almond extract and margarine. Remove from the heat.

Place cored apples in a baking dish and fill the cavity of each apple with some of the glaze. Brush more of the glaze over the peeled surface of the apples.

Place a cinnamon stick in the filled hollow of each apple and bake for about 1 hour, until tender, brushing with more glaze every 15 minutes of baking.

When the apples are soft, remove from the oven. Brush with any browned glaze that has collected on the bottom of the pan.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Turkey-Stuffed Apples With Cranberry-Cumberland Sauce

1 small onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, cut in small dice
21/2 Tbsps. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/4 tsp. ground rosemary leaves
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of cayenne
pinch of ground cloves
2 Tbsps. breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 lb. roasted or smoked turkey breast, finely chopped
4 large Rome apples, peeled and cored
1/2 cup whole cranberry sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsps. orange juice
2 Tbsps. port wine

Preheat oven to 400°.

Sauté the onion and the celery in the oil over moderate heat until lightly softened.

Add the thyme, sage, rosemary, ginger, cayenne and cloves. Cook for another 30 seconds.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and turkey breast.

With the small bowl of a melon baller, enlarge the cavity in the apples by hollowing them until the walls of each apple are about 1/2-inch thick all the way around.

Fill the cavity of each apple with the turkey filling. Place in a baking pan; bake for about 1 hour.

As soon as the apples are in the oven, combine the cranberry sauce with the lemon juice, orange juice and port wine in a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil.

After the apples have baked for 15 minutes, start basting with the prepared cranberry sauce, continuing to baste every 15 minutes until the apples are tender.

Transfer the apples to a platter with a wide spatula and pour the remaining sauce over top.

Serves 4.

Baked Apple Tzimmes

16 pitted prunes
1 cup boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsps. cider vinegar
spray oil
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
1 cup diced, peeled carrot
1 cup diced, peeled parsnip
1 cup diced, peeled celery root
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
4 large Rome apples, peeled, quartered and cored

Cover the prunes with the boiling water and allow to soak for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Drain the soaking liquid from the prunes into a saucepan.

Add the brown sugar and heat to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the vinegar to the mixture and reserve. Reserve the prunes separately.

Coat a 9×13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with spray oil.

Arrange the sweet-potato slices in a single layer across the bottom of the baking dish.

Sprinkle the diced vegetables over top. Season with the salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

Place a soaked prune in the indentation of each apple quarter and arrange on top of the vegetables in the baking dish.

Pour the reserved brown sugar syrup over top of all.

Cover and bake until tender, about 11/2 hours.

Serves 8.

Nutty Baked Apples in Walnut Pastry

For the Apples:

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsps. flour
2 Tbsps. melted butter
4 Rome apples, peeled and cored

For the Crust:

8 oz. walnuts
5 Tbsps. brown sugar
21/2 cups flour
6 oz. (12 Tbsps.) unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and 3 tablespoons flour. Mix.

Pour in the melted butter and continue to mix until all of the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.

Fill the cored apples with the nut mixture and sprinkle some of the remaining filling over top.

Bake in a baking dish for about 1 hour, until tender.

Remove from the oven and cool completely. Refrigerate for several hours before wrapping in pastry.

For the Pastry: Grind walnuts in the work bowl of a food processor until well-chopped.

Add the sugar and the flour, and process until the nuts are finely ground and the ingredients are well-mixed.

Add the butter and process briefly. Add the extract and the egg. Process until the mixture is moistened thoroughly.

Turn the dough from the work bowl of the processor and form into a flat disk. Divide into four pieces and refrigerate three of them.

On a clean board, flatten the remaining quarter of dough into a flat disk about 8 inches wide. Place one of the cooled apples in the center and wrap the pastry up around it so that the apple is completely covered in pastry. Use the scraps for making a stem or other decoration. Refrigerate while you wrap the other apples in the same way.

Place the pastry-wrapped apples on a heavy sheet pan, and bake for about 40 minutes until the pastry is brown.

Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Andrew Schloss is a food-industry consultant and a cookbook author. His current book is Almost From Scratch: 600 Recipes for the New Convenience Cuisine.



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