Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Baked Apples with Bourbon Maple Caramel / "William Tell" Overture

Although I grew up eating baked apples frequently as a "healthy" dessert, it had never occurred to me to make them myself. If it's going to be "apple ____," shouldn't it be apple crisp, apple strudel, apple pie, or otherwise laden with delicious carbohydrates?

{All the fixings: dried figs, dried mixed berries, pecans}
For better or for worse, my husband and I are on something of a pre-holiday diet. Naturally, my version of a diet cannot exclude dessert entirely. When I thought of what kinds of treats I could prepare on chilly fall evenings (yes, we have those in Los Angeles!), my memory darted back to the baked apples my mother used to make for us when the weather cooled down. I would initially be disappointed that oreos weren't in my cards that night. But every time, I bit into a warm and juicy baked apple, I had to concede that I'd underestimated them.

Baked Apples with Bourbon Maple Caramel

Adapted from The Last Course

2 large baking apples (I used Honeycrisps), cored but not peeled or sliced
2 tablespoons dried fruit of your choice (I used 1 tbsp mixed berries and 1 tbsp dried figs)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon nuts of your choice (I used pecans)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon bourbon
splash of vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup apple or pear cider

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine your dried fruit and sugar in a small bowl. Divide filling evenly among the cavities of the apples. Top them off with a thin pat of butter. Place the apples in a shallow baking dish.

Pour the cider, vanilla, bourbon, and maple syrup around the apples.

Bake for 25 - 35 minutes, basting every 5 to 7 minutes, until the apples are tender. Place apples on a serving tray and cover with foil to keep warm.

Transfer pan juices to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the caramel until it reaches your desired consistency and color. Pour over the apples and serve.

(Vanilla ice cream is a great complement to baked apples, although it significantly reduces their dietetic potential.)

{Apples out of the oven, pre-carameled. See how the skin is slightly wrinkled, but not cracked?}

For a musical pairing, enjoy Rossini's "William Tell" overture. The apple theme is the obvious connection here. (William Tell is the legendary man who shot an arrow through an apple standing atop his son's head to win his freedom). But for me, the famous "galloping" section (thank you, Bugs Bunny) perfectly captures what fall means for me in my life. Summer is a relatively calm season for me, since the concert season slows to a crawl. And do I ever relish it: the annual slowdown allows for traveling and socializing on weekends, and accounts for the very existence of this blog. But come September, I am off to the races in a major way. I am never fully prepared for the abrupt explosion of performances and general busy-ness that takes hold. I don't even really have time to bemoan the end of summer; I get swooped up in a mad rush that carries me all the way til the middle of June. It's a lot like Rossini's trumpet blare right as the famous finale begins, at 8:15 in the clip. He wrote absolutely no "transition" between the restful section and the mad dash; it just explodes out of nowhere. The conductor in this version, Riccardo Muti, gives a fantastic cutoff in 8:25 that is awesomely brutal and commanding. As for the craziness that happens in the violins at 10:05: when I've performed this, it's always so unrelentingly fast that you just have to hang on for dear life. God forbid your standpartner makes a mistake - or you second-guess just one of those lousy little notes - and you may fall off the wagon completely.

That's what Fall means to me: hang on for dear life til you start coasting. Along the way, try not to stop and think too hard about having absolutely no weekend evenings free. Savor the manic, unrelenting joy of the concert season. Await summer with no small amount of eagnerness as the wild ride comes to an end. Bask in the bliss of relaxation while it lasts, before being snapped back to reality with a brutal, brassy blare. Repeat.


  1. Just found your blog through an Italian blogger I follow and I'm glad I did. This apple recipe is perfect for right now and the comments about music are wonderful too. Now I'll go hunt for apples and turn on the Rossini.

  2. So yummy. Thanks for posting!


  3. Helo! I love your style! You have very beautiful pics! I will follow you:)
    Big hug & kiss:)

  4. Ciao Maia, great choice this match between apples and Guglielmo Tell ouverture that I know so well and love very much. Rossini is generally very difficult to perform. When you listen to his masterpieces, they always seems so light, so easy while there's a hard technical difficulty that only musicians can admit. These apples, at the contrary, are so delicious and easy that I'm going to copy the recipe and will try it very soon. Un bacio grande, Pat

  5. Wow this looks great! I tried your lasagna recipe for dinner last night- it was absolutely delicious!! I used ground beef instead of turkey sausage and it was still great. The flavors of the three cheeses were so distinct. I definitely know that I'm not trying another lasagna recipe!

  6. Girl you made me hungry and in need for cooking! :)) Great post!


  7. Looks like you two are great friends and Jess does have an uncanny resemblance to her cousin!! Only 1 tablespoon of Bourbon on those beautiful baked apples? :(

  8. Those red velvet cupcakes look so good, wish I could make them!

  9. I've never seen a violinist with fat arms. It's hard work! The first time I tried playing the instrument I found it awkward and it sounded like a cat giving birth, so I take off my hat to you. :-) Love the look of the oozy woozy caramel dribbling down the apples!