October is for apple picking. I love bringing home big bushel baskets full of crisp, juicy apples, and eating one fresh on the way home. If it's warm enough to wrap a big scarf around my neck and skip the coat, I'm game for raw apples.
But in case you haven't heard, we got our first snow this weekend. It's a wee bit - half an inch, maybe? - but it's enough to unleash DC's full-fledged phobia of functioning in "inclement" weather. It's also enough that I want my apples baked.
By "baked," I mean stuffed with sweet, nutty filling. Dotted with butter. Glazed with reduced cider or white wine. That kind of baked. Are you with me? I bet you are.
There are countless recipes online for stuffed baked apples, but most call for stuffing them with what essentially amounts to crumble topping. I love the way the crumble stuffing bakes into a crispy crust on the apples, but if we're being honest, the part inside the apple generally underwhelms. It ends up tasting like very buttery, slightly undercooked oatmeal, which is tasty, but not really what I want inside my apples.
That's why I developed this recipe, which calls for finely chopped nuts, dried fruit, and still plenty of that signature brown sugar and butter. I baked the apples in a combination of cider and white wine, but you definitely can bake them in just cider, or a combination of cider and water.
Inspired by Mario Batali, I served these apple with a bit of gorgonzola dolce on top. The cheese provided a nice counterpoint to the sweet, buttery apples. If your guests (or you) aren't keen on gorgonzola, you can serve them with a bit of creme fraiche or mascarpone. Or hey, gild the lily: a la mode would be fantastic, too.
GIVEAWAY RESULTS: Thanks to everyone who entered last week's giveaway of a Nudo Olive Oil Gift Pack! This morning, I chose a winner using the Random Number Generator and Random.org:
The lucky winner is Grace. Congratulations! I'll be in touch via email.
Now, onto today's recipe.
Baked Apples Stuffed with Figs and Walnuts Serves 6
6 of your favorite apples 3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped 3/4 cup chopped figs 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 4 tablespoons butter, softened, divided 1 cup cider 1/2 cup semi-sweet white wine (or substitute more cider or water) 2 oz. gorgonzola dolce or other mild, creamy gorgonzola, optional, for serving
(Other serving options: creme fraiche, mascarpone, or vanilla ice cream)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Use a melon baller to core the apples from the top. Work your way through the center of the apple, removing all the seed pods but leaving a sizeable base intact. You're essentially looking to turn each apple into a cup. Set apples in an oven-safe casserole. Apples should stand up on their own; if not, choose a pan that just barely fits the apples, so they stay upright.
In a small mixing bowl, combine walnuts, figs, brown sugar, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Use a fork to mash and combine the mixture as you would the crumb topping of a fruit crisp. The mixture should be somewhat damp and clumpy.
Use a small spoon to fill the cavity of each apple with filling. You should have enough filling to fill each apple to the top, but fill each apple a bit at a time, to make sure filling is distributed evenly. Dot filled apples with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
Pour cider and wine/water into the bottom of the casserole.
Cover casserole with lid or aluminum foil. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove cover, baste apples with pan liquid, and continue baking 30-40 minutes longer, until apples are soft, the apples' skins are wrinkled and golden, and the juices have reduced considerably.
To serve, top each apple with a small piece of gorgonzola and serve hot. Alternatively, serve apples with creme fraiche, mascarpone, or vanilla ice cream.