Baked apples: an apple dessert with no pie crust and no peeling. It must be simple, right? Wrong! Come learn from my many baked apple failures how to make a perfect, foolproof baked apple recipe–well, not “fool” proof, exactly…but I was talking on the phone while baking them, so it couldn’t have been that hard!
The first dish I made, I followed the guidelines from Joy of Cooking and used these bad boys…
These gigantic Fuji apples held up for an hour in a 300 degree oven. The apples were pleasantly al dente, but I wished the inside mixture were a little crispier. I baked these apples in water, which works but, in retrospect, isn’t my first choice of cooking liquid.
Next, I followed the directions from Zoe Nathan’s Huckleberry cookbook. I used small Granny Smith apples, cranked the oven to 375 Fahrenheit, and cut the apples in half instead of simply coring them. I also used apple juice instead of water (highly recommended). Sadly, I didn’t read the critical part which stated to check the apples frequently and ended up with total applesauce at the end of an hour! But, hey, all was not lost. I just popped it back in the oven for 45 minutes and made apple butter.
For my final–successful–baked apple attempt, I adjusted the oven temperature down to 350 Fahrenheit and checked the apples as they were baking. I even borrowed a few ingredient ideas for the topping from David Lebovitz’s recipe for Baked Apples with Ginger, like lemon zest, fresh ginger, and toasted nuts.
After thirteen apples and three attempts, voila! Perfect baked apples.
Here’s what worked:
I used Granny Smith apples, which have a great tartness after baking but become way more tender when baked. For her Apple Tart Tartin Deb Perelman suggests Pink Lady, Gala, or Fuji, but if you don’t mind deflated apples and checking the oven like a crazy person, Granny Smiths are ok, too. When in doubt ask your apple vendor.
Half the apples for a crispier topping
Okay, okay, this recipe is perhaps more of a hybrid apple crisp. And even I am wondering why I bothered to make baked apples when apple crisp was calling my name. Here’s why: less cutting, I get to eat the skins, and less sugar insanity.
But the drawback of baked apples, for me, was losing that crunchy, golden browned crust of a crisp. But if you just cut the apples in half, you can have the best of both worlds.
I preferred apple juice over water. It sweetens the apples slightly. Also, if you get distracted and forget to check on the apples, you can turn the mixture into apple butter if you use apple juice.
One of the tenets of my cooking is, if you can use whole ingredients and flavor in place of basic, less nutritionally dense ingredients, you’re winning. Your food will be healthier and more flavorful. This topping is my own invention, adapted as a hybrid of David Lebovitz’s filling and Huckleberry Cafe’s topping.
Also, vegans rejoice, because I tried two versions of this topping: one with butter and one with coconut oil. The coconut oil topping won in terms of taste! I also cut the oats to add toasted nuts and cut the flour to add almond flour. Only have whole almonds? Make almond flour with this easy recipe.
Here are the topping ingredients I used:
- almond flour
- toasted pecans and/or walnuts
- coconut oil
- honey / brown sugar / maple syrup
- lemon zest
- ginger (minced or paste)
Let’s get creative…
- Not a fan of lemon zest? Leave it out!
- Don’t have nuts? More oats are okay.
- No fresh ginger? No worries.
- White wine as roasting liquid instead of water or juice? Why not.
Just remember: check your apples frequently while baking. 🙂Print
Melt-in-your-mouth apples underneath a crunchy, crumble topping.
For the Topping
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup almond flour*
- ½ cup walnuts, pecans, or a mixture of both
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar*
- zest of half a small lemon
- ½ teaspoon ginger paste
- 2 tablespoons flavorful honey*
For the Apples
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar*
- 3 apples
- 1 cup apple juice*
For the Topping
- Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Then mix in the wet ingredients.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to a day.
For the Apples
- Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
- In a small bowl, mix the melted coconut oil, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
- Core the apples and cut them in half lengthwise (cut right down through the part you just cored).
- Put the apples, cut-side up, in an 8×8-inch baking pan, and sprinkle the other ingredients on top. Pour the cup of apple juice into the pan, and cover tightly with foil.
- Put the apples in the oven. Begin checking for doneness at around 20 minutes. To test doneness, poke a skewer into the apple. If it can’t go in without moving the apple, it’s not done. If it can go in, but you still feel a little resistance, it’s perfect. If it slips in and moves around inside the apple, good luck: you might end up with a delicious batch of apple butter. (I took my apples out around 30 minutes, but they were small Granny Smiths. Other varieties could take as much to an hour to cook. Use your spidey senses to judge your own batch.)
- When your apples are ready take them out of the oven. Spread a hunk of topping across each apple, taking care to drop as little as possible in the apple juice.
- Turn the oven up to 475 Fahrenheit and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is golden.
Almond flour: If you don’t have almond flour, all-purpose flour can also work.
Brown sugar, honey: Honey, brown sugar, and maple syrup could be used interchangeably anywhere in this recipe. If you use less brown sugar, however, also reduce the salt to ¼ teaspoon.
Apple juice: You could also use water or white wine. Spike your juice with brandy or dark rum, if you dare.
Keywords: baking, baked apples, apple desserts, dessert, vegan, vegetarian, fall, fall desserts, Thanksgiving