The other day I had a hankering for Canada’s favourite, apple pie. It was a cold, snowy night that called for a steak and baked potatoes supper followed by good old-fashioned apple pie. But the road to Hades is paved with good intentions, and by the time push came to shove making a pie from scratch just wasn’t in the cards. Yet I had all these large Granny Smith apples, purchased for this purpose. And I still had that apple pie craving. What to do?
I had just put the russet potatoes in the oven when it hit me; baked apples. After all they bake at the same temperature as the potatoes and cook in less time. So it seemed good sense to take advantage of the oven and multi-purpose it.
Baked apples are incredibly easy, so much so that it is a fun and good recipe for the kids to help you with. And, as a bonus, they’re actually pretty good for you too! Hello, you’re eating an apple for dessert, it doesn’t get much more holier than thou than that! Baking the apple caramelizes it a bit and brings out its natural sweetness, especially an apple like a Northern Spy or Granny Smith, apples that are slightly tart, crisp and firm and thus chosen for pies. Further, you can stuff the apple with almost anything you want, so you can pair the apple with spices and flavour combinations that work for you.
I decided to make a sort of inside-out apple crisp; brown sugar and oats is a great topping for apple crisp, so after coring the apple stuff the topping into the cavity. But then, why not tart it up a bit further. Adding walnuts and currants made the filling a little more substantial, and substituting maple syrup for brown sugar gave it a more Canadian feel. Since I was planning on serving them hot out of the oven with vanilla ice cream, this would give it an old-school maple-walnut ice cream vibe.
It only takes a couple minutes to scoop out the core of a few apples, and a couple more to mix the filling and stuff them. Pop them in the oven until they are soft and the skins split; this could take from 20-45 minutes depending on the size of the apples, and of course how soft you want them. As the apples cook, the juices are released and mix with the butter and other flavours resulting in a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, perfect for drizzling over the dessert, ice cream and all.
Stuffed Baked Apples/Inside-out Apple Crisp
3 large Granny Smith or Northern Spy apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup large flake oats
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ cup currants
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 F. Thoroughly rinse the apples, pat them dry and remove the stems and cores. A melon baller works great for this as you can contour the inside of the apple beautifully with it. With your finger rub a little lemon juice about the cavity of each apple. In a bowl mix the oats, flour, a tablespoon of butter, maple syrup, currants, walnuts, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and salt. Fill the cavity of each apple to overflowing and place each apple in a buttered pyrex dish. Dot a little butter on the top of each apple. Place in oven and bake for 20-40 minutes or until apples split and desired level of doneness is achieved. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.