Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baked Apples with Warm Apple Cider Caramel

One of my goals this fall was to try baking things with apple cider. I really felt like an apple dessert this week. So, flipping through my cookbook I came across this recipe for warm cider caramel baked apples and decided that i needed to make them as soon as possible.
While these were baking my kitchen was filed with the warm, fragrant, heady smell of apples. Another dimensions of flavour and texture is added in the filling, a sweet mixture of orange zest, pecans, golden raisins, and cinnamon.

The soft yet firm baked apples are surrounded by a sticky caramel sauce that is made by adding reduced apple cider to the bubbling caramel.
I was particularly proud of accomplishing this recipe because the caramel sauce did not turn black or give me terrible third degree burns or scorch the pot or do any of those horribly scary things that caramel is wont to do. ( burning sugar scares the crap out of me, can you tell?) In fact all it did was bubble and hiss when I added the reduced cider and then its insatiable rage fizzled out and I was left with a dreamy, apple-y caramel.
All that and there's only a few tablespoons of butter in the recipe! Of course that particular asset was nullified since I accompanied mine with ice cream .
These baked apples are fairly hands off dessert that comes together fast using pantry staples. They are a wholesome comfort food dessert, which is just what an overworked undergrad like me needs.

Baked Apples with Warm Cider Caramel

Time: about 1 hour, 15 minutes hands on time
Makes: 4 baked apples

• ¼ cup pecans
• 4 large cooking apples,(Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Ida Red)
• ¼ cup golden raisins
• 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
• 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ cup apple cider or juice

Cider caramel
• ½ cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons orange juice
• ¼ cup reduced reserved apple baking juices

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from baking sheet and cool. Chop pecans and reserve.
3. Peel skin from the top third of each apple. Use a melon baler or paring knife to core the apples, leaving about ½ inch of the bottoms intact to hold the filling.
4. Combine pecans, raisins, brown sugar, butter, orange rind, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Toss to combine well. Use a small spoon to stuff filling into apples, pressing in with fingers to compact filling. Set apples upright in a small baking dish or pie plate.
5. Pour apple cider over apples. Cover baking dish tightly with foil, and bake for 45 minutes or until apples can be easily pierced with the point of a knife.
6. Remove apples from oven and drain apple cider juices into small pot. Keep apples covered in a warm place while you make sauce.
7. Place pot over medium-high heat and simmer for 4 minutes or until, juices are reduced to about ¼ cup. Reserve.
8. For caramel, heat sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, and stir until sugar is moistened. Allow mixture to come to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes or until sugar has turned golden. Standing back slightly, pour in the reduced apple cider, (the caramel will bubble and spit vigorously). When the bubbling has subsided somewhat, stir to incorporate the juice and the caramel. Don’t be tempted to stick your finger into the sauce to taste it until it has cooled slightly, as molten sugar is painfully hot. Pour sauce over and around apples. Serve warm with ice cream.

Adapted from: LCBO Food and Drink Holiday 2006

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