Apples

IMG_2456The other day as I was recovering from the flu, I felt a sudden blip of energy, and decided to make chicken soup. As the soup was simmering, I had another blip, and decided to make baked apples, because chicken soup and baked apples taste so good on a cold winter’s day, whether you have the flu or not.

IMG_1617So I took four apples and cored them and peeled their top halves (to prevent them from exploding as they bake). I buttered a small Pyrex baking dish, and set the cored apples into the dish, and then chopped dried figs and slivered almonds, and stuffed the apples with this mixture. Then I poured some freshly squeezed orange juice over the apples, and  sifted some cinnamon over them, and put them into a preheated 350 degree oven, where they baked to syrupy deliciousness in 45 minutes. I basted them once or twice with the juice.

I enjoyed the baked apples so much that I decided to do a bit of baked apple research and post a recipe. As it turns out, I was lucky to have so innocently and blithely made the apples before realizing how fraught with peril their making is. One online article raged so vehemently about bland, mushy baked apples that you would have thought they were talking about Vladimir Putin, or child slavery.

Actually, if you are a bit under the weather, the bland, mushiness of a baked apple is comforting.

apple2Then I ran across an old-fashioned French recipe for baked apples with an interesting twist: the apples are set upon circles of bread and baked. I wondered if the bread wouldn’t get hard. Or, would it get mushy? I have learned, though, to listen to French recipes very carefully–they usually have a reason behind what they do. I made the recipe and waited with baited breath. After 40 minutes, the apples were browned and baked, and I served up a portion onto a plate. The moment I sliced into the apple, I understood the inclusion of the bread–melted butter gushed down onto the toasted bread, and you eat a mouthful of the soft, sweet apple, and then a mouthful of buttery, crunchy toast. As usual, the French know what they are doing, and this is how I’ll make baked apples from now on.

*****

apple1Baked Apple

from The Art of French Cooking by Fernande Garvin

4 cooking apples
4 slices white bread
4 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons butter

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Ready for the oven.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel the top half of the apples, and core. Leave the skin intact at the bottom of the apple. Cut slices of bread into 3″ circles, and place into a buttered baking dish. I used a stoneware dish that was 7-1/2″ in diameter, but you could use Pyrex. Use what you have! Place an apple on each piece of bread, and in the cored center, place one teaspoon sugar and then add the pats of butter.  I sprinkled some cinnamon onto each apple, though it wasn’t called for in the recipe. Bake for 40 minutes.

Baking notes: For baking, you can use Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Rome Beauty, or Jonathan apples. For the above-shown apples, I used Pinklady, a variety that’s new to me, and they turned out fine. Pass by any bruised or soft apples. If you are really lucky, you can go to a farmer’s market in the fall and find extraordinary apples–crisp, tart, and wine-like–but that’s not what you will find at most local grocery stores.  Also, about halfway through baking, I drizzled on some melted butter. There are many, many recipe variations for baked apples. A nice-sounding one is to top the apple with a teaspoon of marmalade. The recipe called for serving the apples with a chilled Sauternes, though I can testify that they were tasty with a cup of coffee!

IMG_2420Meanwhile, a woodpecker nibbled on the suet.

IMG_2426The female cardinal looked fluffed up on this snowy day.

IMG_2432Looking pretty together.

IMG_2433As per usual, birds were jockeying for position at the feeder.

Well, I hope you are keeping toasty warm (and healthy) on these cold January days. Namaste. Fran

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