When the weather turns cold and rainy and your dear Critic has gone and abandoned you (temporarily) and you want to turn on the dryer just to inject some warm dry air into the atmosphere...it's time to bake up an old American favorite, hot apple pie.
However, I am lazy and the shortcut for this American classic is even more of a comfort food for me: baked apples conjure up memories of visits to my grandmother and how in the winter she would often have three or four baked appples sitting on her counter waiting to be eaten cold. Baked apples are the essence of an apple pie, the reduction to the best elelments. Okay, a flaky light crust can cut through some of the intense apple flavor and I have nothing against a scoop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to compliment the tartness. But at the end of the day, the best part about an apple pie is the filling: baked apple, cinnamon and sugar melted in a thick glaze, with the occasional plump raisin as an added bonus.
And so yesterday I took the three remaining Royal Gala apples in my basket (they were starting to get a little too ripe) and baked them. Somehow, they never turn out quite as good as my grandmother made them, but I figure she was 66 by the time I was born and so maybe the extra 30 years experience helped.
Also, I think I'm too impatient and should put the heat lower and bake longer.
Nevertheless, even my poor imitation baked apples are absolutely scrumptious, the perfect dessert on a cold rainy day. If your beloved spouse is not around to see you pigging out you can even eat his too...TWO hot apples are even better than one.
In case your wonderful grandmother didn't teach you how to make these simple treats, here is the procedure. (I hesitate to call it a recipe!)
Preheat the oven to 325F/170C. Wash and core your apples. Peel the top third of the apples and eat the skins. Place the apples in a baking or roasting pan with sides. My grandmother's was black enamel, mine is glass - heavier pans work better than thin ones. At the bottom of each apple drop a plug of butter, about half a teaspoon. Follow this with about a teaspoon of brown sugar. Sprinkle some cinnamon and then fill the cavities with plump raisins, to just under a centimeter from the top. Don't pack them too tightly, as you want them to be able to expand with the apple juices and brown sugar. Add another teaspoon or so of brown sugar and some more cinnamon. Place another little pat of butter on top of each apple and...if you really like cinnamon...add some more. Put a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan to start the glaze. Bake in the oven for an hour or so, until they are really nice and tender. For best results, spoon the glaze from the bottom of the pan over the apples every fifteen minutes or so as they are baking.
Serve hot or cold, with ice cream or on their own. Personally, I like them hot from the oven, all on their own, with loads of glaze dribbled over them. Then I like them almost as much the next day, cold.
I need to buy some more apples!
P.S. Go vote!! I already did and it made me feel GREAT!