As a kid, making Baked Apples was a sure-fire way to get me to eat apples! My mother didn’t do anything fancy with them – she just took some of the skin off the top of a Roman Beauty (and beautiful and huge they were) – cored them – filled them with those Red Cinnamon Heart Candies that I loved, added a spoonful of water to each apple, shoved them into the oven and let them bake. Every so often, she’d open the oven and spoon some of the dissolved candy sauce over so the peeled part didn’t dry out, and was left with a pretty pink color.
For years, I did the same thing (and I’ll confess, occasionally when I’m dying for one and I’m in a hurry, I’ll do the same thing but put it in the microwave, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and a minute or less later, unwrap for a taste of years ago). When the family went to Las Vegas, my Dad would be awake early and so would I, so we’d dress and walk from the Sahara (sadly, it’s gone) over to Foxy’s (the deli across the street which I think is also gone) and have a Baked Apple with Cream there for a quick breakfast to hold us until mother and sister were up and ready to get started for whatever was planned for the day.
So when I think of ‘comfort food’, a Baked Apple is one of the first things that comes to mind. Today, we can do them simply as mother did … or with a bit more pizazz. I like to make them with stuffing that is both sweet and chewing and crunchy – so I’ll often toss together some chopped walnuts, almonds and or pecans (whichever I grab from the fridge first), maybe some raisins or dried crans, some brown sugar (really, the Whey Low Gold which I use instead of brown sugar), some cinnamon, fresh scrapes of nutmeg, a few drops of vanilla paste, a bit of butter, mix it all together and stuff that baby while the toaster oven is heating up!
This makes a great breakfast treat – a light and healthy dessert – and even a great snack to have on hand when you want that ‘something” but nothing heavy or overly sweet and you’re not sure just what.
Try it … I think you’ll agree.
Vanilla Cinnamon Baked Apples
- 4 apples, (Roman Beauty if you can find them, otherwise any baking apple, unblemished)
- 1/4 c brown sugar (light or dark, your preference)
- 1/3 c unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla or vanilla paste
- 1/2 c chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds (optional)
- 1/2 c raisins or dried cranberries (or a combination, optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Set out 4 custard cups or a small baking pan that will hold the apples without crowding. If using custard cups, I suggest a baking pan that will hold them (makes it easier to remove them from the oven without burning yourself!).
Peel about 3/4 to 1” off the top of the apples and core them. Be sure not to cut through the bottom as you want the stuffing to stay in. You may need to trim the bottoms slightly so they stand up straight.
In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter together until creamy. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla until well combined. Add nuts and stir (if using).
Set each apple in a custard cup or standing in the baking pan. (If you use muffin tins. Partially fill the empty spaces half full of water to keep the tin from warping – or, make 2 more apples!)
Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes until fork tender. If you like them really soft, let them bake a little longer (I like mine a little more firm). Serve warm by themselves, or with milk or cream.