A perfect baked apple is one of the true great puds. It's all about choosing the right variety of apple, and not stinting on the butter and booze that go in the cavity with the dried fruit.
Put the dried fruit in a small bowl and pour over the cider brandy. Leave to macerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight. Beat the soaked fruit into the softened butter, along with the sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon, if using.
Core the apples and cut a sliver off the base of each one if you think they won't stand up straight in the tin. It's a good idea to score them around their circumference with a sharp knife too, to stop them bursting. Stuff the cavities with the spiced fruit butter, then arrange the apples in an ovenproof dish, smearing any extra butter over the top.
Cover with foil and place in an oven preheated to 150°C/Gas Mark 2. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until soft but not collapsing, removing the foil about two-thirds of the way through cooking and basting with the buttery juices. Serve the apples with the juices spooned over them and a scoop of ice cream on the side.
Christmas baked apples
If you have any leftover mincemeat at Christmas, you can use this instead of the brandy-soaked dried fruit. Zip it up a bit with some lemon zest and a slosh of cider brandy, stuff it into the cavities and put a knob of butter on top of each one before baking.
- 100g dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins and chopped prunes
- 50ml cider brandy
- 100g unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- 6 fairly large eating apples
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