Apples baked in cider somehow taste more of themselves. It goes without saying that this is comfort food, easy to put together and pop in the oven just as soon as dinner is underway. If possible, use cider from a farm stand or farmer’s market—it has a deeper, more concentrated flavor than the grocery store brands, which wash out in comparison. The comfort extends to those times when you are not eating dessert for self-improvement purposes, but want something just a little sweet. These won’t do much damage. You can even omit the sugar if you want to feel pure. - Sally —Sally
Test Kitchen Notes
This dead-simple recipe should be in your back pocket all through apple season. Once you reduce some cider and core a few apples it's virtually hands off, and the results can be anything you want them to be. You can eat the sweet, mellowed apples bare -- a more virtuous cousin of the apple pie -- to restore you when you're feeling cold and low. Or you can dress them up with creme fraiche or ice cream, to celebrate the season. Note: We used Galas and found them to be perfect -- for a primer on the best apples for baking, go here. Feel free to omit the butter to make this dessert parve. —The Editors
firm cooking apples, like Braeburn, Gala, Fuji or Granny Smith
Pour the cider into a small skillet and bring it to a boil. Continue to boil over medium heat until the liquid reduces by slightly less than half. It should be vaguely syrupy, but it will not be too thick. It will take less time in a skillet than in a saucepan because there is more surface evaporation. Either way, don’t just walk off to another room and leave it—you might set off your smoke alarm if you forget it. I speak from experience.
While the cider is reducing, peel the skin from the top third of each apple. Use a melon baller to dig out the apple core, leaving about 1/3-inch of the apple intact at the bottom. Place the apples in a pie pan or baking dish.
Stir the cinnamon, butter and brown sugar into the cider syrup. Pour it into the apple cavities, allowing it to overflow into the baking dish. Bake the apples for 40 to 50 minutes, until they are pleasantly soft but not collapsing. Baste the apples occasionally in the cider syrup if you happen to think of it, and add more cider if the liquid starts to dry out completely. The exact cooking time depends on the variety and size of the apples—some take longer than others.
Serve the apples warm in dessert bowls with the extra syrup spooned over them. If you want to dress them up, drizzle them with some heavy cream, or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Custard sauce would be even better if you’re feeling ambitious. If any apples are leftover, warm them up for breakfast and eat with yogurt.
I am a home cook,author of a couple of cookbooks and mother. I write for the Boston Globe from time to time. My "kid" just left for college and comes home for cooking lessons. Too bad he was completely uninterested in the process (except when he was little and gingerbread was involved) until now. Without Mom to cook, he's very, very hungry. But it's fun to keep bonding over the stove.
I blog about food and life at www.sallypasleyvargas.com