A perfectly cooked baked apple is one of the finest desserts imaginable. But there's a problem. They go into the oven looking like this...
...and more often than not come out looking like this:
While delicious, their wrinkled surfaces and applesauce-like texture leaves much to be desired. The cause is that while in the oven much of their internal moisture is baked out of them. Do you long for baked apples that still look like apples? Are you hungry for baked apples with more flavor baked into them? Are you ready to try a revolutionary technique for making the world's best baked apples? If so, then read on!
What follows is not a recipe for making baked apples. Rather, it is a new technique for them that results in perfectly round, non-wrinkled baked apples. Any recipe you have can be used with this technique, although those that call for nuts and raisins may require some modification.
The first step is to cut off the top of a 2-liter soda bottle.
Remove the plastic ring that was originally connected to the screw cap, screw the cap back on and stuff a tight wad of aluminum foil into the funnel shaped part of the bottle top. Using tongs, hold the bottle top under boiling water for one minute.
What this does is relax any thermal memory the plastic may have picked up during it's being formed into the bottle. Without heating, it could deform so much during the baking process that the apple would be ruined. The foil and cap help it retain its shape.
Use a 7/8-inch diameter apple corer to cut down halfway into the apple then use a small melon baller to remove the seeds. Be careful not to enlarge to core hole. It may be necessary to squash the baller's sides in slightly to do this. Don't cut down all the way through the apple. An intact bottom is required to keep the baking liquid in place. Finally, use a knife to make a very shallow cut all the way around the perimeter of the apple. All you want to do is break the skin. This allows for the apple to expand without splitting.
Here's where things start to get interesting. Push and screw the funnel made from the soda bottle into the apple.
What this does is create a reservoir that can be filled with flavored syrup, which will bake into the apple. Like a sponge the apple will swell as it soaks up this syrup. This is the trick that keeps the apple from collapsing and enables more flavor to be baked into it. Place the apple in a heat proof bowl that holds the apple tight enough so it can't fall over. Place the pair in a larger bowl to catch any leaks or overflows.
Make a syrup of 4 ounces by weight of golden brown sugar and 1/4-cup of good apple cider or juice. Add any spices desired to this syrup and heat it in a microwave until just before it starts to boil. Pour half a cup of the hot syrup into the apple.
(I believe the best baked apples are those that emphasize apple flavor. Adding too many spices can result in a delicious dessert, but one that tastes more like a collection of spices than apple. That is why I recommend using the best quality apple cider you can find instead of water. Apple cider, particularly if it's freshly pressed at home [please go to APPLE CIDER to see how] greatly enhances the apple flavor. For seasoning I limit myself to a very small pinch of cinnamon and an even smaller pinch of salt. The salt is kept to minimum because I want it to act as a flavor enhancer, not make the apple taste salty.)
Heating the syrup helps dissolve the sugar and kick starts the baking process. If cold syrup is used you may need to add 10 minutes to the baking time.
Place the apple in a microwave and cook it at low power for 15 minutes. The exact time and power setting depends on the microwave and the size of the apple. In my 1100 watt unit, which is typical for built-in microwave ovens, for a medium sized Rome Beauty apple I set the power level to "1" on its 0-10 selector. Baking the apple for a longer period of time at lower powers has two advantages. First, during heat cycles the syrup will start to boil. Lower power settings reduces the chance it will boil over the top of the funnel. Second, slower baking helps the apple cook more uniformly.
It's common for some of the syrup to either boil over the top of the funnel or leak out from where it screws into the apple. If this happens, pause the baking, remove the apple and pour the syrup that's collected in the large bowl back into the funnel, then put the apple back in the large bowl and finish cooking it. This ensures that the reservoir is always full so the maximum amount of flavor is baked into the apple.
The first indication that the baked apple is done is that a 1/8-inch wide gap will form around the apple where the skin was cut. Press the sides to the apple. There should be a slight give to it. This is where personal preference comes into play. People preferring slightly firm baked apples should remove the apple at this time. Those that like softer apples may want to bake them a few minutes longer. Each apple is different so just like baking in a conventional oven, adjusting the baking time is a matter of judgement and preference.
Use tongs to remove the apple and place it on a plate then pull out the funnel, being careful to avoid getting the hot syrup on your fingers. If the apple has been baked until it is very soft it may be necessary to scoop under it with a large spoon to avoid the tongs squashing it. Pour any syrup that escaped into the bowls over the baked apple. During the cooking process this syrup will have taken on a luxurious flavor and texture. Use it as a sauce to coat each piece before eating.
I like using a very sharp knife to cut neat wedges out of the apple and dredging them in the rich syrup before eating.
Apples baked using this technique have better texture, deeper flavor and look better than oven baked apples. Making the baking funnel only takes a few minutes and will last years. I sincerely hope you'll try this new method of making the best baked apples you've ever tasted.
The following video shows everything mentioned on this page:
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