Baked apples are the kind of simple, old-fashioned dish that never goes out of style. They're easier than apple pie, warm, delicious, and depending on how you cook them - they can make for a healthy breakfast or dessert. Plus, the house smells divine while they're baking!
Here's the quick and healthy-ish recipe my family and I like to enjoy during the fall and winter months. It's a combination of all the tips, and tricks I've come across over the years, modified and adapted along the way. So this is the very best recipe I've concocted after years of trial and error. Until now (when I get to share it with all of you) it has lived scribbled on a piece of scratch paper, tucked away in my recipe file in the cabinet. I have no recollection of its origins, but it's a favorite cold-weather treat in our home and I hope it will be in yours too.
1. Choose your apple
First, you'll want to pick a thick-skinned, medium apple. Gala, Fuji, or, when in-season, Autumn Glory or Envy apples are a great choice because they are soft inside but maintain their shape when baked.
You'll need one apple per person. It doesn't matter how many you bake at once—just choose a baking dish that'll hold your desired amount of apples without too much empty space around them. Sometimes I just make one single baked apple in a very small baking dish all for myself.
This recipe will yield enough for six baked apples. If you need more or less than six, adjust accordingly.
2. Prepare your apple
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Start by washing the apples. Then, using a paring knife rather than an apple corer, remove the core and seeds carefully. Keep the bottom of the apple intact, and create a nice little vessel in the middle that you'll fill with all the good stuff in the next step. Use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out what you've cut out. Discard the seeds and compost the remainder.
3. Fill with goodness
Place the apples snug in a baking dish. Choose a dish that has sides at least 2 inches high. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1/3 cup of chopped pecans, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.
Fill the hollowed-out center of each apple to the top with the mixture - pack it in as much as you can as some will bake out of the apples.
This is a very forgiving recipe and one that is meant to invoke joy, so please, have fun with it. The ingredients can be interchanged or omitted depending upon your tastes. You can try coconut sugar or maple sugar in place of brown sugar. Butter can be used in place of coconut oil. You can add different nuts. Raisins, cranberries, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cardamom, and/or ginger would all be delectable additions to this soul-nourishing dish. Whatever your heart desires, just go for it.
4. Bake, Top, and Enjoy!
Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Place an apple in your favorite bowl and grab a spoon. Serve with a scoop of vanilla (or my favorite, honey vanilla) Greek yogurt, drizzle a spoonful of the drippings from the apple pan on top, and sprinkle with a handful of chopped pecans.
Finally, sit back, relax, and mindfully savor every warm, delightful bite. Life is good.