Autumn is apple-picking time in the more “Northern” areas of the Southeast, and while a crisp sunny day spent on a u-pick farm filling baskets heavy with fresh fruit is a treat, I get more excited about being outside, among the trees, than I do about taking home a bunch of apples. I know they’re good for you (an apple a day and all), and they taste fine. But as un-American as it may sound, I’ve never been a big fan of apples.
While others relish their firm flesh, enjoying every crisp-crunch bite into a ripe one at its peak, their texture is exactly what put me off them. The only way I’ll eat apples is if they’re softened up by cooking. I should be into apple pie then, right? But I’m not. I don’t dislike it, but I can think of a lot of other sweets I’d rather waste the calories on.
But my husband loves apple pie. And his devoted mother-in-law (who also loves apple pie but won’t make it just for herself) never misses an opportunity to make him one. Her eyes light up alongside his as she watches him walk into her kitchen and notice the golden-brown lattice pattern, always slightly askew, crowning a pie dish under a glass dome on the counter. She’ll cut him a piece, and before he takes the first bite, she’ll lament that the crust isn’t really right, and she just doesn’t know what her mama did that made it, as she tells it, “perfect every time.”
Since, in our family, it seems that some essential element of pastry making is lost with each subsequent generation (and because I’m lazy), I don’t even attempt to make my husband apple pie. If we’re not in Gadsden, Alabama, with my folks, the only apple pie he’s getting comes in a box from the store.
Don’t feel too bad for him. I cook a lot and make his requests all the time. Still, I’ve never made him an apple pie, and I’ve realized it’s the idea of making the crust that stops me. I feel that my grandmother in heaven and my mama a few hours north would judge me more harshly for using store-bought pie crust than for simply not trying to re-create theirs. So, I decided to find a way to give him apple-pie taste without apple-pie work.
Baked apples were my solution. I found a basic recipe, but if I was going to make it, I wanted to like it too, so I tweaked a few things. Since cinnamon is a predominant apple-pie flavor and another thing that’s not on my list of favorites, I searched for something additional to amp up the taste and settled on ginger; it adds hint of warm spice in the background. And I’m always looking for new ways to use honey. The result is this recipe for baked apples that gets about halfway to actual apple pie. (Throw a shortbread cookie or two on the side when you serve this, and you’re one step closer.) It’s easy to make and tastes like fall. Added bonus: Your kitchen will smell heavenly for hours after you’ve devoured the dish.
Baked Apples with Honey
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
2 tablespoons butter, divided
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Leave each apple whole and use an apple corer or melon baller to remove the core. Don’t cut all the way through; leave the bottom intact so there is a well where the core was.
Cut a small slit around the circumference of the apple, being careful not to cut too far in. (I’m not sure if this is necessary or not, but Internet research claimed it would keep the apples from bursting in the oven, and better safe than sorry when it comes to exploding fruit.)
Mix the cinnamon, ginger, and honey in a small bowl. Place the apples in a baking dish. Rub 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over the outside of each apple. Place 1/2 tablespoon of butter down inside each apple, and then pour half the honey mixture in each well, drizzling a bit of it on top of each apple.
Bake the apples for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 2 to 3 minutes. To serve, place each in a shallow bowl and top with vanilla ice cream or a bit of Greek yogurt sweetened with additional honey.