It’s officially Fall! Even though it’s hot and feels like the longest days of summer. But I’m pretending that those crisp breezes have picked up and have started burning pumpkin candles. So it’s not a moment too soon to share these cute little guys.
If you’re starting to crave those spiced flavors and possibly have even gone apple picking already, this one is for you. Because I know all of you out there are itching for those fall baking feels! Here, whole apples are baked with a cinnamon stick popped into each one until they’re all soft and sweet and perfect. Then we amp it up with a crème anglaise that has more of those warm spices and caramelized sugar to make it really special.
The magic of this recipe? The apples are baked in a warm oven all covered in parchment. The parchment prevents much of the steam from escaping while they bake. That accomplishes two things. First, as the heat slowly breaks down the cells in the apple, the water is released. The trapped steam has nowhere to go but remain in the apple. This keeps the apple from drying out as it bakes and keeps it juicy. Second, the cinnamon spice notes are aromatic which means that they float about in the air and explains why we smell them. That’s great, but as the heat increases, the air moves more quickly about and more and more aromatics are released. This can actually cause a large loss of that great cinnamon complexity. The parchment prevents some of that aromatic loss. It’s a win-win!
I also wanted to mention that I really appreciate the warm thoughts you all have sent my way after my previous post. I wanted to keep this post light after all of that self-reflection, however I have to mention a rather sad event. My childhood dog, Rocky, had to be put down last night after a long life of 18, almost 19 years. He was still happy and defied all of the doggy odds, but he just became too weak to walk. He was my favorite kitchen companion and always watched like a hawk for me to drop crumbs. As such, he went crazy when we baked or cooked anything that had strong aromas. So this recipe posting is a perfect homage to him. We love you Rocky, and I miss you already.
With that, bake on, friends. Smell all those wonderful smells. And happy Fall.
Cinnamon-Baked Apples with Spiced Caramel Crème Anglaise
Makes 4 apples
Adapted from The Little Paris Kitchen
*Note: You use “dessert” apples for this AKA apples that taste great on their own and don’t need to be baked. I repeat, do not use baking apples for this. I used Fuji and Honeycrisp, but Granny Smith would be a great option too for the acidity.*
For the Apples
4 medium “dessert” apples (see note)
4 cinnamon sticks
For the sauce
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk, warm
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
A pinch of kosher salt
A pinch of ground ginger
A pinch of ground clove
A pinch of ground nutmeg
- Begin with the apples. Arrange an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300⁰F.
- Core each apple and stick a cinnamon stick in each cored apple. Wrap in parchment, tying at the top with kitchen string.
- Place the apples in a baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes. Check every 10 minutes after the first 20 minutes of bake time. You don’t want your apples to get too mushy. Once the apples feel just soft to the touch, increase the oven temp to 375⁰F. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until soft but not falling apart. Remove from the oven and let cool until easy to handle.
- While the apples are cooking, make the sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat the granulated sugar over medium, stirring frequently but gently. You are going to caramelize the sugar. First, the sugar will clump together and it will look like you’re doing it wrong, but be patient! Keep heating and stirring gently. The sugar will begin to loosen up and become a syrup followed by a slightly brown syrup. Keep heating and stirring. Once the syrup is sufficiently golden (go as far as you dare! You’ll get more toasty, deep notes if you caramelize it longer, but if you go too far it will burn), get ready with the milk and a whisk. Slowly stream in the milk to the saucepan as you whisk constantly. Be careful! It will sputter at you!
- Once the milk is added, add in the butter. Reduce heat to medium-low. Slowly add in the cornstarch, blending well with your whisk. Let thicken over the heat for 30 seconds or so. Add in the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Remove from the heat and serve with the apples.
- For serving the apples, carefully remove them from the parchment paper and discard the cinnamon stick. Place in individual serving bowls and divide the sauce among them. Eat immediately. Enjoy!