Wayback Machine: Baked Apples

Sweet readers, we're taking the week off to catch up on some real-life work. In the meantime, we're re-posting some of our favorite recipes and essays. This one is from March 2008. Enjoy!

WOW. These Baked Apples are good. Let’s just start right there. Imagine an apple pie without the annoying crust part, and you pretty much have the idea. Dairy-free, virtually fat-free, and shockingly low in calories, they could be the perfect dessert for dieters. They're DEFINITELY the perfect dessert for lactose-intolerant vegan dieters.

I made them twice in two days, and would have kept going if we didn’t run out of fruit. (Oh, cursedly weak upper arms, why can’t you hold more grocery bags?) In fact, I liked the recipe so much, I wanted to do a Letterman-esque Top Ten list in its honor. So, without further ado...

  1. They’re warm, tender, sweet, and generally tasty as all get out.
  2. Also, the smell. Woof. Very nice.
  3. The five-minute prep time doesn’t hurt, either.
  4. They’re WAY more filling than most other desserts. This is partly because they’re fargin’ gigantic and partly because apples are rich in fiber, which makes you feel sated longer.
  5. The recipe comes from Christopher Kimball’s The Cook’s Bible. Kimball is also the proprietor of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated, and can absolutely do no wrong in my book. Case in point: he regularly sports a bowtie/apron ensemble and manages to make it look like a stunning fashion statement. (Marc Jacobs, take notes.)
  6. They’re pretty with an interesting presentation, though you wouldn’t know it by my food photography. I’ve owned my camera for three years now, and I’m wondering if I should finally give in and read the directions.
  7. They will impress the pants off family members.
  8. They’re cheap! Mine came to about $0.60 per serving. That’s less than … half a load of laundry. And if it came down to it, which would you rather have, clean underwear or dessert?
  9. Don’t answer that last question.
  10. I’m running out of reasons here. This is usually the part where Letterman makes a bad Michael Jackson joke or something. I’ll settle for a bad regular joke:
    Q: How many kids with short attention spans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: Wanna ride bikes?
One quick note if you decide to make these (and please do, before apples become scarce): Kimball mentions that Red Delicious, Granny Smith and MacIntosh varieties are bad ideas for Baked Apples, since they don’t hold their shape well. He suggests Northern Spy, Macoun, or Cortland as good options. I tried Idared, since the sign specifically said “GREAT FOR BAKED APPLES,” and they worked beautifully.

Now, go! Run! Make 'em! You won't be unhappy, I promise.

Baked Apples
Serves 4
Adapted from The Cook's Bible, by Christopher Kimball.

½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (Double it for powdered nutmeg. – Kris)
1-1/2 cups apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon zest
4 apples such as Northern Spy, Macoun, Cortland or Idared, washed and dried

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a different small bowl, combine cider, vanilla and lemon zest. Set aside.

3) With an apple corer, melon baller, or teaspoon, core apples "without cutting through the bottom." (This is key.) Then, peel the top inch of each apple. (See picture.)

4) Stand apples up in a baking dish. Split sugar mixture evenly among apples and pour into hollowed cores. Pour cider mixture into the dish itself, and then cover the whole shebang with tin foil.

2) Bake for 30 minutes, "basting with cider once or twice." Check tenderness by gently stabbing the biggest apple with a knife or toothpick. If it's not tender, keep baking for as long as it takes, which could be anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. (It depends on the general size of the apples.) Remove from oven and serve warm.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
214 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.61

½ cup sugar: 387 calories, 0 g fat, $0.16
½ teaspoon cinnamon: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1-1/2 cups apple cider or unfiltered apple juice: 180 calories, 0 g fat, $0.75
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract: 3 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
½ teaspoon lemon zest: negligible fat and calories, $0.00 (you still get to use the lemon afterward)
4 apples such as Northern Spy, Macoun, Cortland or Idared, washed and dried: 287 calories, 0.9 g fat, $1.66
TOTAL: 857 calories, 0.9 g fat, $2.64
PER SERVING: 214 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.61