Master this technique and you may never bake a pie again.

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Baked whole apple
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Be honest – you just came home from the market with a basket of beautiful, fresh apples and you are craving a spice-scented, fresh-out-of-the-oven apple pie, right? But you just don’t want to peel all those apples and you don’t feel like making a pie crust. Unless Mom is willing to make a pie for you, the next best thing for you to do is to make a dish of baked apples. This is truly so easy (you don’t even have to peel the apples) and tasty that you may never make an apple pie again. This humble dessert is just cored apples filled with sugar, spices, and butter, baked until so tender you just eat the apple with a spoon.  You really don’t even need a recipe – just memorize the technique and you can make a baked apples dessert any time you have a craving for apple pie.

Choose the Right Apple

There are a lot of delicious apple varieties available at the grocery stores today, but not all of them hold up well when baked. You want them to get soft, of course, but not mushy, and you don’t want an apple that completely collapses and loses its color. You want one that is, in the words of Goldilocks, just right. McIntosh and Granny Smiths are amazing when used in an assortment of apple desserts such as pies, cobblers, or Fresh Apple Cake, but they aren’t very attractive when baked whole. Honeycrisp apples hold their shape fairly well when baked, as do Empire, Braeburn, and Rome apples. Of course, many people opt to use the popular Fuji and Gala varieties. Experiment for yourself and choose whichever baked apple texture and taste makes you happy.

Choose the Right Baking Vessel

It doesn’t matter how many apples you bake at one time – just choose a baking dish that will hold your desired amount. You want the dish to have sides about 2” high (to support the apple and keep it from falling over as it starts to soften) and doesn’t leave much empty space between the apples. If preparing baked apples for a party, plan on one apple per person.

Prepare the Apple

Wash, dry, and core the apples, leaving enough of the core at the base of the apple to contain the filling, which is usually some butter, something sweet, and some warm spices. Add about a tablespoon of sweetener to each apple. This can be granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc. This is completely your call. Sprinkle in your favorite autumnal spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, etc. Now add a few pieces of diced butter in each apple; it really doesn’t matter the order of ingredients, as everything melts and mixes together in a lovely riot of flavors.

WATCH: Granny Smith Apple Pie

Now Bake and Serve Hot

Before putting them in the oven, pour about 1” of liquid into the baking dish around the apples. This will keep the apples from burning and sticking to the baking dish, as well as help them soften as they bake. Water and apple cider are obvious choices and, since this liquid gets flavored with the juices of the baking apples, add a splash or two of bourbon or brandy. Bake the apples in a 350°F oven until they are very tender, about 40 to 45 minutes. Start checking at half an hour; if the liquid has evaporated, go ahead and add more.

Once you remove the apples from the oven, let them sit for up to ten minutes. Scoop some of the liquid from the baking dish into each bowl along with each apple and serve them as you would a slice of pie – with heavy cream, ice cream, yogurt, or a slice of cheese.