The goal for the last few years has been to rework recipes reducing or eliminating sugar. It’s been an interesting journey, and one that had to include baked apples. It’s taken a time or two to figure out how to replace sugar and retain the flavor of this dish, but it was worth the tinkering. The reduction in sugar allows the flavor of the apples to really come through, with the apple cider adding natural sugars and the brown sugar further enhancing the taste bud experience and giving the dessert additional depth. The side benefit, a wonderfully delicious sauce to spoon over the Baked Apples when they are served. Oh, yum! (Bake extras it saves time!)
Notes for this recipe: Apples: I like to cook with Empires, which are a wonderfully crisp and flavorful apple. They are also a decent keeper. But, any crisp, firm apple can be used. Do not substitute apple juice for the apple cider—the flavor of the dish will suffer. Up to half of the apple cider can be replaced with water, but the sauce will not be as thick or as flavorful. Coring apples: There's a handy gadget I've had for years--a hollow tube with a wooden plunger--I use to core apples. Works perfectly and blissfully low-tech! You can see it pictured below in the photo to the right of the ingredients list. Doing an on-line search will turn up similar gadgets with the wood now replaced by plastic.
6 fairly large apples
Select a non-reactive baking pan large enough to comfortably hold the apples without them touching and set it aside. Preheat oven to 350.
Wash and core the apples. Cut a strip of peel from around the middle of each apple and set inside the selected pan. Gently pack the core cavities with raisins to about ¼ inch from the top of the apple. Press brown sugar on top of the raisins so that it is flush with the top of the apple. Cut a slice of butter equal to approx. 1 tsp. and set on top of brown sugar. Give each apple a sprinkle of cinnamon and then a grate of fresh nutmeg.
Pour apple cider into the pan until it is halfway up the cut away strip. Put the apples into the oven and bake for 60 minutes or until tender. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool slightly. Serve warm or cold.
To serve: Select some large dessert bowls and have them handy. Select a serving spoon with a bowl large enough to scoop up an entire apple. Use the spoon to move the apples into the selected dessert bowls. Divide the sauce among the dishes and serve. In the unlikely event of leftovers, store any remaining apples in an airtight container in the refrigerator.