Wednesday, 8 August 2012
If I keep eating baked apples at this pace, I think I might turn into one.
It all started when mum came back from the little market with a big bag of apples: two types of cookers and a tiny little eater. Mum fancied a baked apple, the type she makes with dates, but - alas - we had no dates. So I stepped in and threw a few things together and went back to watching the Olympics.
After an unspecified amount of time (in my enthusiasm to get back to the sports, I hadn't put a timer on), the smell wafting out of the kitchen reminded me that I did, in fact, have pudding in the oven.
Lashed with plenty of my favourite super-thick gruyere double cream, the apples were fantastic. They'd split their skins so little streams of apple flowed out. The pecans had caramelised and roasted amongst the sugar and butter, giving a wonderful crunchy contrast to the soft, almost foamy apple.
The next day, at lunchtime, I set out to recreate it for the camera. I don't know where the weird black flecks that made everything a bit grey came from - I reckon either the ancient apple corer or the old tin I was using - but it wasn't exactly appetising.
So I tried again in the evening, with a different type of cooking apple. The apple was huge, so I split it in half and scooped out the core with a melon baller. This version was much better, but the apple was too sour. Every other bite made your face pucker.
The next evening, I tried with the little eating apples. These were great - not too sour, but still enough to contrast with the other ingredients. I opened them out, like the big apple - the little bowls create a crunchier topping than filling a core. The temperature and timing was finally accurate. But it was dark, so there were no photos. So today I made them again.
This is a wonderfully quick and easy recipe - the only thing you need to really keep an eye on is the apple you choose. I reckon a fairly sour eater is just right - one that tastes delicious fresh will make the best baked apple. You can adjust the sugar to suit, but keep in mind that if you have a very sour apple, you're not going to be able to combine the sugar with the flesh like you can with a sauce or even in a pie - as the apple is baked in large chunks. It's up to your taste preferences, really.
It would also be easy to scale these up for a party or dinner - I think a big dish would be perfect after a family roast. You could serve them with vanilla ice cream or custard if you'd prefer.
Finally, there are still a few places left for both of my TEAS in September! They're your chance to come to my home in Oxford for an afternoon tea and taste five courses of my baking - see here for details and the way to book...
Brown Sugar & Pecan Baked Apples
1 large or two small sourish apples
25g pecan halves
1 tbsp light brown sugar
Several little knobs of butter (about 5g overall)
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Split the apples in half, stem to bottom. Use a melon baller (if you don't have one, perhaps a spoon or even a knife?) to scoop out the core in the middle and take out the stem and bottom. Place cut side up in a little baking dish.
Roughly chop the pecans up. Place into a bowl and mix in the brown sugar. Use a teaspoon to heap the sugar and pecans into the middle of each apple half. Don't worry if a few fall off, they'll be fine. Finally top with a chunk of butter. Place into the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes (depends on size) until a knife goes easily into the centre of the apples, the pecans look toasted and the syrup underneath the apples has caramelised a bit. Serve with plenty of chilled double cream.