When the weather becomes bitter and sweaters are pulled from closet shelves in twos and threes and forced into service (I'm a layerer at heart), my mind turns immediately to food (but honestly, when does my mind not turn to food?). Specifically it turns to warm, comforting desserts.
Apples are the fruit that I find myself pondering the most often - probably because they are so abundant, so delicious, and so utterly versatile. There are mountains of them at every grocery store and market; pyramids of red, yellow and green and a few with all three colours mixed together. Each beckoning me to take them home and make them into something delectable so they can fulfill their own delicious destiny.
The house was filled with the sweet, comforting smell of apples baking yesterday while this luscious dessert languished in the oven for over an hour. I know that they sell this particular scent, the scent of apples and cinnamon baking, bottled at the drug store. Why would anyone purchase a bottle of this smell to spray in their home when all they have to do is bake something as simple as this? Or an apple pie? Or applesauce...? I guess not everyone has the time or the inclination to bake in order to make their house smell absolutely wonderful.
This recipe is really quite simple. It has to be assembled, which takes all of five minutes, and then popped into the oven and baked it for just over an hour, basting with the pan juices every once in a while. The result is an absolutely scrumptious dessert; even more so if served with vanilla or coffee ice cream and the toffee-coffee flavoured pan sauce.
There is something utterly delectable about the smell of apples baking. Recently, my father was telling me about the baked apples my grandmother used to make for him - inspiring this recipe. His memory of them revolved specifically around the smell of them baking, wafting through their tiny apartment. It amazes me that he can recall that scent, after 60 years.
6 medium-sized Golden Delicious apples
1/4 cup toffee or Skor Bar™ bits
1/4 cup strong-brewed coffee
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Vanilla or coffee ice cream to serve
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel skin off top third of each apple. Using small melon baller, scoop out stem and core, leaving bottom intact.
2. Stand apples in large baking dish. Place 1/2 of toffee bits around apples in dish. Divide remaining bits among cavities of apples. Add 1/2 tablespoon coffee and 1/2 tablespoon butter to cavity of each apple.
3. Whisk remaining coffee, cider, maple syrup, sugar, ginger and cinnamon in bowl; spoon over and around apples.
4. Bake apples until tender, basting often with pan juices, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Transfer apples to bowls or plates.
5. Pour juices from dish into small saucepan. Boil juices until thick enough to coat spoon, about 6 minutes. Spoon sauce over apples. Serve apples warm with ice cream and cooked sauce/pan juices.