As soon as summer turns into autumn, my favorite dessert to celebrate the change of seasons is Baked Apples…and I’ll tell you why.
I was remembering back on a trip we took one autumn to western Washington State several years ago. Coming from Southern California where in September the hillsides become crispy and brown, I was quite taken by the almost prehistoric forests that seem to be everywhere. The surroundings were lush and green, and the air was clean and crisp even in the early fall. And apples…there seemed to be apples everywhere we went.
As with all my travels, it seems what I remember most though is the food, and usually it’s one dish that stands out and sears itself into my memory. On one particularly misty afternoon we stopped at a small roadside cafe owned by an elderly woman and her son who also had an apple stand next to their restaurant. They insisted that after lunch we try their baked apples for dessert.
I can only equate those apples to a thick, cozy Ralph Lauren cable knit sweater (in off-white) that engulfed you in its warmth and simpleness. The apple dessert was stuffed with an earthy filling of oats, fruits and nuts and then drizzled with an apple cider reduction that I would have licked up off the plate if no one was watching. But, people were watching.
Anyway, when I returned from the trip that autumn, I tried to duplicate the old woman’s version in my own home. It’s just not the same in 80 degree weather surrounded by palm trees, but pretty darn good none the less!
Not all apples are good for baking. I would not advise using Red Delicious apples as they tend to be very mushy. My favorites apples would be Macintosh, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Fuji. Always try to choose a crisp, firm apple.
Make sure you drain all the liquid from the baking dish into a small pot. It will have some of the brown sugar, oats and fruits in it. Let the pot come to a steady simmer, and let the liquid reduce by half until it becomes like a thin syrup. I encourage you to top your apple with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, and then drizzle the syrup over top. It’s simply pure perfection.