The aroma wafting through the kitchen right now is in-sane.
Six petite heirloom apples currently roast away, bathed in vanilla-infused, fresh apple cider and filled to their brims with a cinnamon-brown sugar-hazelnut crumble.
This recipe could alternatively be titled “How to Make Your House Smell Amazing, for Serious.”
I hoarded more local apples at the farmer’s market this week. Something like four bags-full of dainty, pink-fleshed Liberties, and dark, ox-blood-hued Empires, so ashy that for a moment one could almost mistake them for late-summer plums.
I made an apple pie, in the classic way, with an all-butter crust and lattice top, and then another, filled with salted caramel for good measure. I’m still pondering a tart, and a few savory applications, but saved the littlest fruit for a simpler task: cider baked apples.
The success of a recipe like this – simple to its very core (!) – is to use the best ingredients you can find; in this case, really good apples, and really good apple cider. Here in Washington, the markets have exploded with apples – bins upon bins of them, in dozens of colors and varieties. My rule of thumb is to seek out the best local varieties (which are usually marked), and when in doubt ask the farmer. They know what’s especially tasty that day.
As for the cider, the stuff you often find at the grocery store can be… lacking. This time of year though, local farmers markets and farm stands are stocked with big jugs of fresh, flavorful cider, which far exceed the store-bought options. But honestly, even the most pedestrian apples are transformed after meeting vanilla and cinnamon and a brown sugar crumble.
So core a few apples before dinner, reduce down some cider (or don’t), stuff them with a quick crumble, and let them roast away while you eat. Enjoy them warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert, and save the leftovers for breakfast (alongside greek yogurt or warmed over oatmeal are my fav’s) the next morning. Ultimate autumnal comfort food.
- 2 cups apple cider (1 cup reduced)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 6 firm baking apples (look for smallish, sweet/tart varieties such as Liberty, Empire, Cortland, Braeburn, Pink Lady etc.)
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
- 2 Tbsp (packed) dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour*
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter,* cubed
- 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (or sub. almonds, walnuts or pecans)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Add the apple cider to a skillet and bring to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down to medium, add the vanilla, and continue to simmer until the cider has reduced by about half, 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Meanwhile, cut the tops off the apples, set the tops aside, and use a sharp knife or a grapefruit spoon to remove the core. Leave a bit of the bottom intact (about 1/8-inch or so – just enough to keep the filling from spilling through.) Place in a pie pan or baking dish, spaced a bit apart. Drizzle with the lemon juice.
- Make the filling: Stir together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a small mixing bowl until combined. Use the back of a fork to mash the butter into the sugar mixture, until incorporated. Add the nuts, and use your fingers to crumble the mixture together.
- Fill each apple core with the crumble mixture, and top with the apple tops. Pour the reduced apple cider into the bottom of the baking dish and bake until the apples are cooked through, about 40-50 minutes, depending on size and variety. Baste a few times with the cider while baking. The crumble filling will nearly dissolve into a thick, gooey sauce, studded with hazelnuts. Serve the apples warm with the reduced cider sauce along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or pair the leftovers with yogurt for a breakfast treat.
Special Diets: I’ve had success using both vegan butter (Earth Balance) and almond flour for vegan and gluten free versions.
- Serving Size: 1 Baked Apple (includes filling and cider sauce),
- Calories: 192g,
- Fat: 6.8g,
- Carbohydrates: 34.74g,
- Fiber: 3.8g,
- Protein: 1.6g