Pommes au four

Baked apples

This classic autumn dessert brings the flavors of the orchard to your table. For best results, choose apples that are firm and slightly tart — heirloom varieties if available. Count one apple per person for medium to large apples, and two to three per person for small apples.

Serving the apples with cream adds a French touch, but it’s optional. The apples should be served warm or at room temperature. If serving straight out of the oven, allow them to cool for 10 minutes before bringing them to the table.

Adjust the quantities below according to the number of people you plan to serve. If you bake more apples than you need, the extra ones can be refrigerated and reheated in a medium oven. Be sure to set aside some of the caramel sauce to serve with them!

Quantities per person
1 medium or large apple, or 2 smaller apples
1 small lump of unsalted butter
1-2 tsp. sugar, preferably cassonnade, demerara or another raw sugar
1 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (180 C, 350 F).

Rinse the apples and core them. Go only about 2/3 of the way down to ensure that the bottoms remain intact. I find it’s easiest to do this with a vegetable peeler. Using the point, draw a circle around the stem about 3/4 inch (2 cm) in diameter, or a little smaller. Once your circle is complete, go straight down with point, following the outline. Go about halfway down and extract the core. Then gently dig deeper to remove the rest of the seeds.

Now turn the apples on their sides and, using a very sharp knife, trace a circle through the skin around each apple’s circumference. Don’t go in deeply — just slice finely through the skin. This should ensure that your apples do not explode while baking (as happened with the one shown at right — not a tragedy, by the way).

Fill the hole in each apple about halfway up with sugar. Top with a lump of butter (about the size of the first joint of your forefinger).

Butter a baking dish large enough to accommodate all the apples. Set them in it upright, leaving some space around each apple. Place in the oven and bake until tender, about 20 minutes for smaller apples and 30-40 minutes for larger apples.

Remove the apples from the baking pan. The bottom of the pan will have some cracklings of butter and sugar. Add 1-2 tbsp. water, stir to blend and return the pan to the oven for a few minutes. This will create a light caramelized sauce.

Distribute the apples on plates or bowls. Pour a little warm caramel sauce over the apples.

If you’d like to add cream — highly recommended, in my opinion — place a large dollop of crème fraîche beside each apple, or drizzle them with heavy cream.

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