Flash in the Pan: Grown-up Fig and Walnut Baked Apples

[Sometimes, you just want to eat something now.  I've decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so easy to make that no recipe is required. Here's today's "Flash in the Pan." (For other FitP recipes, see "Categories" at right).]

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It’s astonishing to me how our tastes can change so dramatically as we age. Remember those things you loved as a kid which elicit apathy now? As a tot, I loved The Monkees.  In my teens it was historical romances. In my twenties, I wore dark eye shadow and painted eyeliner across the base of my lashes.  In my thirties, I dressed in black almost every day for three or four years in a row.

There’s no doubt my palate has changed over time as well.  Foods I loved to eat as a child–saltwater taffy, Cap’n Crunch cereal, mellowcreme pumpkins or (a dinnertime favorite) a hillock of mashed potatoes with nuggets of hamburger cut up and hidden under it–all seem slightly repulsive to me now.  Then again, many of the foods I abhored then are ones I adore today; to wit, parsnips, cilantro, and–as of two days ago–baked apples.

When I decided back in January to attempt a “cleaner” diet for a while so that I might reverse some of the holiday era choc-o-rama indulgences, I turned to a cookbook I’ve had for some time but have never really used:  The Detox Cookbook and Health Plan, by Maggie Pannell.  Hiding at the back, on the very last page, was a rather fetching photo of a lone baked apple, stuffed to the brim with chopped figs and walnuts.

Apple?  Baked?  I could feel myself recoiling, thinking, “Nawwww. . . . “  I mean, who eats baked apples?  They’re granny food.  They’re ulcer food.  They’re nothing-else-is-in-the-house-so-I-have-to-make-do-with-this-dull-fruit food.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I love raw apples and try to have one every day.  But I’ve always found the concept of a baked apple to be rather meh

Besides, apples are so common, so quotidien, so humdrum that they’re suffering from overexposure, like cupcake wedding cakes or Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons or Pamela Anderson’s cleavage.  I mean, aren’t apples like the perma-date of fruits–pleasant, enjoyable, always there–but just not exciting enough to seek out for something exceptional?  When I think of apples, all the old, hackneyed language comes to mind:   Apple of my eye.  One bad apple. An apple a day. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Apple Paltrow-Martin.

I was also flooded with memories of baked apples from my childhood, and why I never liked them back then: plain, dowdy, as wrinkled as your frowsy neighbor’s housecoat.  And yet, that photo beckoned to me.  I found the final push I needed when I went grocery shopping a couple of days ago: I often buy marked-down packages of apples to cut up and serve The Girls along with their regular dinner.  That day, I found three packs of six apples each, at 99 cents a pack.  Usually, these bargain-basement fruits and veggies sport more than a few little bruises; but these packages were perfect–smooth, rosy, unblemished; pristine. Seriously, I couldn’t find  a single nick or mark on any of the apples!  It was a sign. 

I went home and baked these apples.  The recipe was ridiculously easy, with only 4 ingredients.  And while they baked, I got dinner ready and even fed The Girls (they got the unbaked fruit). 

I guess my tastes have matured now that I’m an adult.  I loved these–they were stupendous.  I’d say these apples are like the homely, bespectacled secretary in the 1950s movie who suddenly tears off her glasses, pulls the hairpin holding her bun and shakes her head, and then–mon dieu!–she’s beautiful!  I now am officially smitten with baked apples. Baked apples are my hero!

I used Gala apples (that’s what was on sale) and the outcome was perfect.  The contrast between the sweet, pliable stewed figs with their popping crunch, and the perfectly creamy, tart apple flesh was delightfully unexpected. And as the glaze baked and thickened up, it acquired a deep, intense orange flavor as well as a deep caramel hue, contributing a glossy, sticky exterior glaze to the skins. 

I think I’d better try to eat baked apples at least a few times a week through the winter. I plan to have them as often as I can. I mean, who knows when my tastes might change again? 

 Baked Apples with Figs and Walnuts in a Citrus Glaze

adapted from The Detox Cookbook and Health Plan

by Maggie Pannell

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This is an elegant weekday dessert, that’s a comforting winter treat.  And for pennies a serving, you really can’t go wrong.

4 medium firm, juicy apples, such as Gala or Granny Smith

4 dried figs (I used organic Turkish)

4 Tbsp (60 ml) walnut pieces

juice of 2 oranges

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Line a large square or rectangular pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.

Wash and core the apples.  Don’t worry if you cut right through to the bottom when you core them.

Place the apples upright in the pan, and divide the figs and walnuts evenly among them, stuffing the core area of each apple.  If any fig or walnut pieces remain, scatter them on the bottom of the pan.

Pour the orange juice evenly over the apples.  Cover the apples with foil (or a tight-fitting lid, if your pan has one). Bake in preheated oven 40-50 minutes, until the apples seem to be softening and the skins begin to wrinkle just a bit.

Uncover the pan and continue to bake 10-20 more minutes, basting occasionally with the juices, until the apples are soft and wrinkly and the orange juice has reduced to a thick glaze.  Allow to cool 10 minutes before removing carefully from the pan and placing gingerly on a plate.  Garnish with any extra fig and walnut pieces and any thick juices still in the pan. Makes 4 servings.

Last Year at this Time: Reubenesque Sandwich

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Comments

  1. Oh. my. gosh.

    Saving this recipe for sure!!! I just need to get some figs now =)

  2. No granny food here!! DAMN does that look delish.

  3. mmm those look sooo tasty!

  4. Ricki,
    This sounds really good to me too. It seems like an easy, but delicious (and healthy!) dessert. It’s sweet that you feed “the girls” apples cut up.

  5. Well, I have always said it–I am an 80 year old granny at heart, and this proves it…I have always *loved* baked apples! They are so delicious, and these sound amazing! I never thought of putting figs in them–brilliant! I am going to make them tonight :o)

    Courtney

  6. Some of the things I loved as a kid make me shudder now (food wise that is, although that massive teased up hair of the 80′s certainly makes me react in a similar way :P).

    These look absolutely wonderful!

  7. These look delicious, but then I’ve always been partial to baked apples…and secretaries with their glasses on. But I can see how the addition of figs and walnuts would elevate this to mon dieu status!

  8. I never liked baked apples when I was growing up because my mom would dice them and then coat them in sugar and butter–which is great now (Earth Balance of course!), but I love whole apples baked like your recipe! The figs and walnuts and orange juice sound amazing! What a great breakfast idea!

  9. Very nice! I love a super simple dessert recipe. I tend to not spend much time on it because I’m focused on the main course instead.

  10. I loved the comparison to the bespectacled secretary, how do you think these things up?!

    I attempted baked apples for the first time ever last week (as coincidence would have it), and have a few words to the unwise (like me!). Do not attempt this without an apple corer, it really isn’t worth it. Don’t bake them too long if using a smaller apple as they can have mini explosion. No, just me?

    I will be trying again, but this time with an apple corer and your “almost” recipe. Thanks!

  11. Oh my gosh. I will be making this soon, it sounds so fabulous, I LOVE figs.

  12. As much as I like baked apples (I’ve been an old woman since I was 14), those walnuts look so juicy. I never knew walnuts could absorb so much juice; or, conversely, that they could soften and be so appetizing! The little fig seeds look great, too. Definitely starred :)

  13. I love baked apples! I’ve also been cooking them in my cast iron with some cooking spray to brown them and then steamed with a bit of water and cinnamon.. My favorite apples for this type of thing is granny smith.

  14. I know exactly what you mean about apples being a bit dowdy – I get all excited about raw apples in season but cooked/stewed/baked just don’t interest me – but this recipe is strangely appealing – I have been thinking I should try baking apples some time like my mum did but I much prefer figs than sultanas in them – although I would be tempted to add custard like my mum used to – now I can’t wait til it is the right weather for wintery desserts again to try this!

  15. mmm I grew with my aunt’s baked apples and baked pears as my favourite treat–sometimes served with vanilla ice cream (soy/coconut cream for us!)–it’s actually a local dessert you can order in most restaurants even.

    Sometimes I’ll just take one, shove it in the oven, and let it go… oooh and the caramel that comes out of it… *drools*

    Who knew health food could be so good?

  16. I don’t really care for cooked apples. I routinely say “no thanks” to apple pie, much to the chagrin of those around me. However, on the couple occasions I’ve had baked apples, they’ve been good! I’m glad you gave them another shot. :)

  17. I’ve always loved baked apples. Baking them takes an ordinary fruit and turns it into something special—as you have so beautifully demonstrated. And with so little effort! I like to stuff them with chopped almonds and dates. Now I have to try them with orange juice, too.

  18. I have to agree with the baked apple love above. Having figs in themsounds even better. Yum!

  19. I bet your house smelled delicious while you were baking the apples! Ulcer-food! LOL!! Mr. Wing-it already went to bed so I had to LOL quietly! :)

    It really is funny how our tastes can change so much. If you told the little 10 year old me that some day she would be eating Brussel sprouts and spinach, she would have a panic attack.

  20. ooh, i used to love baked apples, but haven’t made them in ages. I love the ingredients in these though, much more my speed these days!!

  21. Anything that involves figs and I’m sold! What a beautifully simple recipe, I’m sure it is just absolutely delicious. Thank you for the recipe!

  22. Figs are my favorite, and this looks sooo tasty!

  23. YUM! I love baked apples (sheepish expression :-), and you have taken baked apples to new heights… WOW! Such a great idea, using orange juice and figs! Oooh la la! That’s one chic apple… :-)

  24. I used to be a big fan of Capt’n Crunch too! we could have had cereal-eating contests, had we grown up in the same place.

  25. i just want to you know that you’re responsible for me drooling onto some paper work that was on my desk, Ricki! ahahahahaa! figs + walnuts + apples = one combination of gloriousness!

    i loved me some Capt’n Crunch, too! i ate so much of that stuff it would mess up my mouth – not the most gentle cereal to eat. it’s almost too darn crunchy!

  26. ooh I might whip these up for dessert tonight–I need it to warm me up from the nasty rain we are having in LA.

  27. That looks great! Apples and figs…yum.

  28. Ok, I had the biggest crush EVER on Davy Jones when I was 4 (this was after my big crush on Walter Cronkite – I’d moved on to foreign guys) and loved the Monkees re-runs. When my uncle explained to me that they’d long since broken up and that they were re-runs, etc., I cried for two days.
    I think those baked apples would have cheered me up, though. Yum!

  29. Oooh I don’t know, I’ve always liked baked apples. BUT I always forget about making them. thanks!

  30. I’ve actually never made baked apples, to tell the truth! Now I have no excuse not to, because this looks so easy and delicious, not to mention a healthy option.

  31. I love baked apples and liked them a lot as a kid. Back then they had to have red dye #40 colored cinnamon hearts in them. This looks much more appealling to my adult tastes.

  32. I must feel the same way about apples because I’ve only baked them once before. I think I stuffed them with mashed bananas and raisins. I think your recipe would be great on a cool winter evening.

  33. So simple and pretty! Ahhhh, your reference to P Anderson had me chuckling… Why does fruit have to reference boobies? I have never had an apple baked this way, so I better start, right?

  34. What a wonderful, wonderful idea, Ricky! Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  35. Haha love how you compare them to a secretary!

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