Baked apples are a really delicious autumn pudding, but only worth doing if you already have the oven on for other things. I like to use large, crisp, firm apples. They do not have to be cookers, although Howgate Wonder or Lord Derby would be perfect if you can find them. There is no hard and fast rule about what to stuff them with. A simple mixture of brown sugar, raisins and butter is good. A more elaborate version might include some almond paste or ground almonds and calvados. A spoonful of mincemeat mixed with rum is a speedily prepared stuffing to which you can add some crumbled almond macaroons. Here is another version, flavoured with rosewater.
Wash the apples thoroughly, and core them. Mix all the remaining ingredients, and divide the mixture into six, spooning it into each apple cavity. Place the stuffed apples in a lightly oiled or buttered roasting tin, and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C / 350°F / Mark 4 for 1 hour or until the apples are tender.
Ricotta cheese mixed with sultanas, ground almonds and a little clear honey would also make a good stuffing. Also trickle some honey and lemon juice over the apples before you bake them.
Pears can also be stuffed and baked in the same way. Peel them first, and then core them by working from the base, first cutting out a small plug which can be replaced, and then enlarging the cavity. Spoon the stuffing in, and then replace the plug. The same stuffings suggested for apples are also good with pears, but I think a mixture of a blue cheese, such as blue Stilton, Roquefort or Gorgonzola, butter and a sprinkling of nutmeg is particularly good. The pears will only need to bake for about 30–40 minutes. Cover them with buttered paper while they cook.
Instead of stuffing apples and pears for baking, you can spike them with shreds of cinnamon sticks or, as the Parisian chef, Alain Passard, with split vanilla pods. Do not peel or core the fruit, simply wash it, then spike with the vanilla or cinnamon, smear with butter, sprinkle light muscovado sugar over, and cover the fruit in spirals of orange and lemon zest before baking.
© 1995 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.