The day is cloudy with sleet starting to rattle against the windows. Just the day for warm houses and lovely baking smells. Three of my grandchildren had a sleep over, and I wanted to have a special breakfast for them before church. However, yesterday's brunch had already featured scrambled eggs, and I wanted to stay with the high carb/high sugar breakfast breads that so often are the center of special breakfasts.
A small loaf of homemade bread was in the freezer, ready for slicing and toasting, and a large container of cottage cheese is in the fridge, a favorite protein for all the kids. So what could go with these to complete a menu requiring little work? Enter the baked apple--or a reasonable facsimile. Along with glasses of milk and some orange slices, the meal was healthy and really warming.
The following recipe is extremely easy and quick, especially if you won't be peeling the apples. Yes, there is sugar in the recipe, but far less than many of the cupcake-style muffins or other quick breads that I might have chosen. The cranberries were included because I still had a few in the freezer from a previous recipe; if they were omitted, the sugar could probably be reduced further. See the notes after the recipe about sweeteners if this is a concern.
The apples could also be a great addition to a light soup meal too, and the leftovers can be served cold or warmed slightly in the microwave.
Probably the very best features of this recipe are the ease of preparation and the wonderful fragrance wafting through the house. Waking up to baked apples and cinnamon at Grandma's on a sleet-y gray morning--does it really get better than that?
Baked Apples for Breakfast
4 to 5 apples, approximately1 1/3 pounds
1/2 c sliced cranberries (optional)
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1 t cinnamon
2 T white sugar, approximate (optional)
Core the apples and cut each in about 6 to 8 large pieces. Place in an eight inch square pan.
Now, sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top and then sprinkle with the cinnamon. Because brown sugar is hard to spread evenly, I added just enough white sugar to be sure that there was some light sugar topping on every piece of apple.
Place the apples in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes. About twenty minutes into the baking time, stir enough to be sure all the apple pieces are caramelizing and softening evenly.
This is best served hot or warm. (If using as a dessert, a scoop of good vanilla ice cream would probably be a nice addition.)
How much sugar?
There are so many varieties of apples, that getting the "right" amount of sweetener in recipes like this can sometimes be difficult to judge. The apples I used today are Connell Reds, especially sweet and perfect for this kind of recipe. If I had not included the cranberries, I probably could have used as little as a quarter cup of sugar.
I added the white sugar only because the brown sugar doesn't spread quite as evenly as I wanted. The real work of the sugar here is to provide the caramelization that gives the extra baked apple flavor.
If you are uncomfortable with using brown or white sugars, you could try a thin drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Adding raisins could also provide sweetness for more tart varieties of apples.
In order to keep the full flavor of the apples coming through, I would always err on the side of too little sugar. If you discover that the baked apples are a bit tart, just drizzle the hot apples with maple syrup or honey at that point, or sprinkle on some sugar and cinnamon.