During the first few days of each month, my mailbox is usually stuffed to capacity. This is not due to bills, catalogs, or even Peanut Butter and Julie fan mail (hey, a blogger can dream). No, all of my fellow magazine addicts out there will confirm that the parade of crisp glossy monthly publications tends to arrive over this time period.
As I start to dive deep into the content of these food, travel, and home-related journals, dog-earing page after page until the top ends are twice as thick as the bottoms, my mind goes through about 30 days' worth of time travel. Magazine issues tend to arrive almost a full month prior to their publication date, which I assume is so that readers can actually use the information during the intended month. What good would a recipe for Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad do me if I receive my Bon Appetit on July 5th? Because of this, I am always thinking about pumpkins in September, turkeys in October, and gingerbread in November (well......truthfully, I think about gingerbread year-round.)
I have just finished going through my first batch of September issues, and apparently, apples are once again the big focus for the onset of autumn. I felt a bit like Bubba from Forest Gump as I went through recipe after recipe: "Apple pie, applesauce, apple dumplings, pork chops and apples, apple pancakes, candy apples, apple muffins......" I couldn't take it anymore, so I went to the page in my notebook where I jot down ideas for fall recipes, many of which, as luck would have it, use apples. I chose to make these baked apples because I wanted something not too heavy, as it is still reaching triple digit temperatures outside. Baked apples are a great option for dessert if you want something sweet, but relatively healthy. Filled with dried fruit, nuts, and a bit of maple syrup, having one of these lightly spiced treats is like eating a slice of apple pie without the crust. Make the recipe even lighter by omitting the butter altogether. Here are my extra tips for these autumn-inspired apples:
- Instead of Golden Delicious, other varietals of apples, such as Rome, Braeburn, Gala, or Granny Smith may be used.
- If you don't have a melon baller (as I discovered), then a good alternative tool to use is a set of stainless steel measuring spoons. A paring knife comes in handy for extracting some of the deeper parts of the core.
- Customize your baked apples according to your favorite dried fruits, in addition to the goldens, cranberries, and figs, dried apricots, cherries, and dates would all be delicious. The pecans can be replaced by walnuts or hazelnuts, and the maple syrup can be replaced with brown sugar or honey.
- For an additional layer of flavor, add some orange zest to the dried fruit and nut filling.
- Serve the apples warm with vanilla bean ice cream, lightly sweetened whipped cream, or with a light custard.
Spiced Baked Apples with Cranberries, Figs, and Raisins
4 large Golden Delicious apples
1/2 cup diced dried Mission Figs
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups sparkling apple-cranberry juice
1/4 cup frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Remove the stems from the apples. Using a melon baller or sharp paring knife, scoop out the core of each apple, making a 1-inch wide hollow center but leaving the bottom of the apple intact. Make 1/8-inch deep cut in the skin around the center of each apple. Arrange the apples, hollowed side up, in an 8-inch glass baking dish.
Mix the cranberries, figs, raisins, syrup, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
Pack the fruit mixture into the hollows of the apples. Sprinkle any remaining fruit mixture around the apples in the dish. Drizzle butter into filling and around apples in the dish. Pour the sparkling juice and the cranberry concentrate into the dish. Sprinkle the allspice into the dish.
Bake the apples uncovered until tender, occasionally basting with the cranberry juice mixture, about 1 hour 10 minutes.
Transfer the apples to 4 bowls. Pour the juices into a medium saucepan and boil until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 4 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the apples.