This was supposed to be a recipe for an easy version of apple pie, or at least that was my intent when I started peeling and coring four Granny Smith apples at the counter last Wednesday night.
As part of my mission to avoid yet another kitchen disaster, I had been taking every possible easy route: choosing a simple recipe, peeling all the required apples in one step, doing that peeling while I was sitting down so as not to exert any unnecessary effort for something that might not turn out and not even using a printed recipe because I had memorized the basic steps from looking at them for so long, really analyzing whether or not I could trust this new combination of ingredients and steps and would it be worth the trouble? In most of life, this fragile attitude would be something to work through, but in this case, it really worked to my advantage.
Each time I’d finish peeling one of the apples, its curly green skins spread out on the cutting board in front of me, I’d plop its little body into the adjacent round casserole dish, keeping it from rolling away while also leaving the counter clean. And thing is, once I set that final apple into the dish, the four of them lined up next to each other like they were meant to stay that way, ready to be poached or roasted or something, it became crystal clear to me that these apples weren’t for a pie, but instead they had a different fate. I should bake them, bake them whole, stuffed with some sort of sugar and oats mixture that could get all hot and gooey inside and bubble on top and down the sides. It was so obvious.
Have you ever had baked apples? I know there’s really nothing novel about the idea, as there are hundreds of Web sites and blogs with their own versions (I know because I searched!) but, listen, the process of making them is so! insanely! simple! you almost can’t believe the results can be so good.
And what I didn’t tell you when I said I was peeling the apples last Wednesday night is that it was already late Wednesday night, and I knew I had to work the next day, and, I swear, I am genuinely not the kind of crazy who tries new recipes late at night when I am already tired (well, not anymore) but, even with all that baggage I was bringing into the recipe, I still ended up loving it.
So here is how it works: After you’ve peeled and cored the apples (sitting down if you’d like! I won’t judge!), you mix up brown sugar and rolled oats with things like raisins and chopped walnuts and cinnamon and nutmeg, and then you stuff this mixture, along with bits of chopped butter, as tightly as you can into the centers of the cored fruit. Stick it in the oven for about 40 minutes and boom: you have amazing fork-tender apples loaded with flavor better than the inside of any apple pie, I am so serious. And as we near the end of fall and beginning of the holidays, I can’t think of anything more perfect.
Adapted from Rachael Ray
The original recipe calls for sweeter apples, unpeeled, and suggests 20 minutes of bake time. Because Granny Smith apples are a little tougher, they took double that time, so if you went with, say, MacIntosh instead, you’d probably want to start checking on them sooner.
Also: my sugar/oats filling made quite a bit more than I needed, so you could feel free to use the same proportions for six or more apples, or you could reduce the amount. Or you could do what I’m going to and make these apples again, sooner the better, because, oh my gosh, wow.
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
for the filling:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, a healthy grating
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ounces, 1/8 cup, golden raisins, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
4 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Place apples in oven-proof container with high rims (like an 8 X 8 pan or a casserole dish) and sprinkle them with lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix all the other ingredients but the butter, and overstuff this mixture, layering it with butter (bit of butter, more mix, bit of butter, more mix, etc.) into the center of the apples, as packed in as you can.
Bake for 40 minutes or until fork-tender. Baste with juices in the pan and serve!
Additional note: These also can be reheated the next day, no problem, in the microwave. I put a paper towel on top of the very ovenproof container that I’d used the day before and reheated it for 30 or 40 seconds, and it was just as gooey and delicious. (Thanks, Niki, for the question!)