Food doesn’t get much more straight-forward than this, and autumn is the perfect time for it.
Let me introduce you to Baked Apples, something I consider a treat but which makes my husband, an apple-hater of some renown, recoil. Pay him no mind. These are delicious.
No bonnet, pinafore, or gingham apron is necessary to make these throwbacks to an earlier age. They are an easy dessert that cooks while dinner is being enjoyed, with extras made specifically with breakfast in mind. My favorite apple to use this way is the Rome cooking apple. If you find some, snap them up for this dish. I had no luck finding Romes this year, so I held my own apple pageant, baking three different varieties also known to hold their shape after cooking: Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Jonagold. Golden Delicious won for taste and looks, with Jonagold first runner-up (delicious but a hot mess under fire). Fuji was too stiff in the interview.
There’s so little to this recipe that each ingredient needs to be of good quality. That means using real maple syrup is a must. I found the original recipe, called Vermont Baked Apples, in Miss Grimble Presents Delicious Desserts, by Sylvia Balser Hirsch (© 1983 by Sylvia Balser Hirsch, published by Macmillan Publishing Co. of New York). Miss Grimble is a bakery in New York that’s made cheesecakes and other desserts for New York restaurants and hotels for at least 20 years. Before that, the bakery was a cafe and take-out shop.
4 medium to large baking apples (Romes are great but hard to find; Golden Delicious work well and hold their shape but will split their skins.)
2 lemons, rinsed and dried roughly with a kitchen towel to rub off any wax coating, then zested
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rinse and dry the apples. Remove the core of each apple** to within about 1/2-inch of the bottom. Place in an 8×8-inch baking pan that’s been lightly coated with non-stick spray.
Divide the zest between the apples, sprinkling it inside the apples’ centers. Pour the maple syrup into the centers and over the apples. Bake until soft, about 1 hour, basting occasionally with the syrup.
Recipe may be increased to bake more apples at one time. Increase amounts of zest and syrup accordingly.
**To core an apple: There is such a thing as an apple corer. I used one here, and it made a neat and pretty hole in each apple. Unfortunately, since I wanted the bottoms of the apples to remain intact, I then had to dig out the centers with a grapefruit spoon and an antique pair of tiny tongs sized to pick up sugar cubes. If your own kitchen is not outfitted similarly, just use an old-fashioned, straight-edge style potato peeler. The edges of the hollowed centers might end up a little ragged, but it’ll get the job done.