Technically, this recipe should be called “baked apples” or “baked stuffed apples,” but really . . . what we’re doing here is rescuing some apples that were going bad. It makes me sad to lose any fresh produce. But first, a little bit about the French.
I remember hearing a story once, which may or may not have involved my Great-Grandpa Harvey LaMonte, in which a French cook was asked why he was so scornful of American cooks. He answered, “Because Americans BUY their bread crumbs.”
Harvey, whether he was the subject of this interview or not, was a great believer in what I call “life cycle” cooking. On a particular day of each week, he’d bake a bunch of bread. After the first day or so of ideal freshness had passed, he was making toasted sandwiches and French toast out of it. By the end of the week, he’d cube it up to bake and season some croutons, and then swept the crumbs into a bag to
freeze until it was needed. The idea of *buying* breadcrumbs was ridiculous to him.
Now, I admit that I buy breadcrumbs. We go through a lot of bread, but we don’t bake it fresh . . . and we seldom have bread go unused such that it gets stale for any of these other recipes. But I still like to use things rather than have them go bad.
Back to the present moment. It was a quiet evening and I was still bustling with domestic creativity, being in the midst of baking for gifts and such, when I notice the apples languishing on my table, which happened to be Red Delicious (which nobody really likes as eating apples around here, so I can’t be 100% surprised). I don’t
want to *make* people eat them, but I don’t want them to go bad. Answer: BAKED APPLES.
I’ll warn you now: This is not a pretty recipe. (I don’t know how food photographers make ’em look good.) But they’re YUMMY, I promise you. Making them isn’t so much a recipe as a formula, so you can make them a little bit differently every time if you like. The idea is to have some depth of flavor with the brown sugar (which I’d recommend over white sugar every time for this dish), some sweet/tart contrast from the dried fruit, and some crunch with the oats or even some chopped nuts. Once, we totally forgot to add the nutmeg and cinnamon, and everything turned out just fine without those, so REALLY. Don’t overthink this. Here’s how we did it last week:
- Four apples. If you’ve got a choice, a crisper “meat” (like Granny Smith or MacIntosh) will bake better, but the recipe is great for salvaging the taste of not-so-great apples that happen to be past their prime, so there’s no need to be picky. Unless you’re French.
- That’s on you.
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup rolled oats (even instant oatmeal mix will work, in a pinch)
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries (but you can use raisins if you like, or nothing)
- ¼ cup chopped nuts (if you like them, which I don’t)
- 4 Tbsp butter (actual, unsalted butter)
Line a baking dish with foil. OMG don’t forget this step or clean-up will be a real bear. Wash and core your apples, making sure to leave enough of the bottom that the juices won’t just run straight through. If you accidentally go too deep, then plug up the bottom with some balled-up aluminum foil. (Just remember to take that bit out before serving!) Sprinkle the apples with lemon juice.
In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Portion out and stuff those apples until they can’t take any more, plus a bit on top. Finish each apple with a little “hat” of butter shoved into place. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. After letting them sit for a few minutes, serve with ice cream or whipped cream or caramel. Keep napkins handy and enjoy!