Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘cinnamon’

Baked Apples

Here are the key ingredients for this dish though any number of substitutions for the nuts and dried fruit would be great . . .raisins, dried cranberries, cherries or apricots; almonds, pecans. . . .

I’m testing all kinds of healthy desserts for part of a series of classes I’m teaching at Columbia Sportswear this fall. I know ‘healthy’ is a terribly subjective term but I’m focusing on dishes that traditionally don’t use lots of refined sugars and flours (like these Baked Apples) or adapting ones that do, to use less of those things.

Baked Apples filled with walnuts, dates, a little butter and coconut sugar.

It’s a lot of  fun and I loved these apples I made last night for our dessert and loved them even more for breakfast this morning with Greek yogurt and maple syrup. Many European countries have a variation of this dish (which is also delicious with pears) and I grew up with some German renditions of this. The below recipe was loosely inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s in Around my French Table, however, I simplified it significantly. Enjoy!

I’m also having fun testing soups these days in preparation for Fall Soup Class which still has a few spots. So far I think there will be a pureed chickpea soup with cumin and lemon; a leek soup; a potato chowder and a soup with different kinds of beans and greens!

Breakfast of baked apples topped with Greek yogurt and maple syrup.

Baked Apples 

4 apples, cut in half, peeled and cored (or pears or quince)

4 tablespoons chopped walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans

1/2 cup of chopped dried fruit (dates, raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, prunes or apricots)

2-3 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar (or 1 -2 tablespoons honey)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup apple cider or water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the apples cut side up in the 9 x 13 baking pan. They should be fairly snug so they stay upright and hold their filling. Put a small piece of butter into each hollow (where the core used to be)

In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, sugar (or honey), salt and nuts and dried fruit. Divide this mixture evenly among the hollows of the 8 halves. Dot each half with another piece of butter. Pour the cider or water into the pan and sprinkle the remaining butter onto the liquid in the pan.

Bake until the apples are nice and tender (but not falling apart) which can be anywhere from 45 – 70 minutes depending on the size and kind of your apple. Baste with the buttery juice every 15 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes before eating or eat at room temperature as is or with Greek yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Bake With What You Have – Part I

Apple Oat Muffins . . . not the most photogenic muffins in the world but satisfying nevertheless.

I have a private client at the moment who has three sons; 11, 14 and 16. I grew up with three brothers so I know how much they can eat, but for years now I’ve lived in a household of two and more recently three and I’m just not accustomed to those quantities anymore. This client wants ideas and recipes for hearty, healthy snacks for the boys. So I’ve been testing and making a variety of things including lots of muffins. Muffins are in many ways ideal: they are baked in individual portions; they freeze well; they are portable; and they are adaptable to many different tastes/styles/ingredients. I have a feeling my client’s boys could eat a whole batch of these in one sitting but for those with smaller families, freezing part of the batch is a great idea.

I have always loved to bake and made more than my fair share of layer cakes out of the Joy of Cooking as a teenager. My tastes have changed over the years and I like things a bit less sweet now but until a few years ago, I carefully followed dessert recipes. Not anymore. The cook-with-what-you-have mindset has wormed its way into my baking (and other desserts) as well and I substitute and tinker to my heart’s content. There are still some recipes I strictly follow and certain chefs whose recipes I know better than to change because they are always perfect (David Lebovitz among others). . . .However, muffins are the perfect foil for tinkering and I want to convey that freedom to adapt baked goods like this to my client(s) so that good, home-made snacks like the below muffins become part of people’s regular routines.

I’ve been playing with these Apple Oat Muffins this week and they are a perfect example of a quick-to-make snack (dessert, breakfast, picnic treat) using items you might already have in your pantry or you can substitute with ingredients you do have on hand. They are just barely sweet but the combination of the fruit, the texture of the oats and the spices works well.

These muffins call for as much oats (by volume) as flour.

Muffin (and waffle, pancake, biscuit. etc.) recipes often call for buttermilk. I hardly ever have buttermilk on hand so I substitute either whole milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice per cup of milk or yogurt or a combination. Both work really well. I use whole milk in all my baking/cooking and think it gives the best results but 2% is workable too.

These muffins would also be delicious with the addition of raisins, chopped walnuts or almonds, shredded coconut, other dried fruit or fresh blueberries or raspberries. You could substitute mashed bananas for the apple sauce though you might reduce the sweetener a bit since bananas are sweeter than apples. And speaking of sweeteners, you could substitute maple syrup for the honey or use brown sugar or granulated sugar though honey is a bit sweeter than sugar so reduce the sugar amount by 1/4 or so.

You could also play with different kinds of flour or combinations of flour. You might use half spelt flour and half all-purpose, etc. Kim Boyce’s wonderful book Good to the Grain is a wonderful resource on whole grain flours of all kinds.

Apple Oat Muffins

When tinkering with baked goods you do want to keep the proportion of dry and wet ingredients the same. There are a few other rules (which I will explore in Bake With What You Have – Part II) but muffins are pretty forgiving so go ahead and play around and see what you like.

These muffins are not very sweet. If you like things a bit sweeter by all means add a few more tablespoons of honey.

12- 15 muffins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or other flours-see note above)

1 1/4 cups oats

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt (if using milk, add 1 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar)

1/3 cup honey (or other sweeteners-see note above)

2 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil (or other vegetable or nut oil)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 large apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

grated zest of half a lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil or butter a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl combine applesauce, milk (or yogurt), honey, oil, egg and lemon zest, if using. Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir quickly until just combined. Add the chopped apple and fill muffin cups.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Ellis loves muffin-testing days.

Food as Comfort

For some reason a lot of sad and tragic things have happened/are happening to people I love right now. And I have that deep, sorrowful feeling of helplessness. When I’m sad I actually have a hard time eating, and an even harder time mustering the energy to cook. So I’m going to get cooking for people and hope that a little warm food might help just a little with the ache of it all. I apologize for the morose post but I guess what is this blog if not personal.

So here’s a recipe for a very comforting and nourishing dish:

Brown rice with lime peel, lemon zest, cinnamon stick

Citrus and Coconut Brown Rice Pudding

–adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters

This takes a while to make but it’s almost all unattended time in the oven and it’s a treat especially in the winter. You can vary this in many ways to suit your tastes.  Mark Bittman suggests pulsing the grains of rice in a food processor a few times to break them up a bit which does result in a more luscious pudding but you can certainly skip the step.

½ cup long or medium-grain brown rice

1 14-ounce can coconut milk (I use full fat but you can use light too) and the equivalent amount of whole milk

½ cup brown sugar

1 two-inch long strip of lime peel (I use a carrot peeler to shave this off)

grated zest of half a lemon

1 small cinnamon stick and/or a 3-inch piece of vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped into mixture and pods added too

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients well in a 2 or 3 quart oven-proof pot or Dutch oven. Cook uncovered for about 45 minutes then stir well. Cook for another 45 minutes and stir again. The mixture should be bubbling by now and might be getting a bit golden around the edge. Cook for another 30-45 minutes. Now it will start looking more like rice than milk. Stir every 10 minutes now. It will thicken considerably as it cools so take it out just before you think it’s the right thickness. But even if it gets really thick it will taste wonderful so don’t sweat it too much.

Remove the cinnamon stick. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. You can add raisins or other chopped, dried or fresh fruit half way through the cooking. You can also serve it topped with toasted coconut, shaved chocolate, chopped nuts or fruit compote of some kind. It’s very good with slices oranges that you macerate in orange and lemon juice, a bit of Cointreau, and some orange zest and sugar (if you’re feeling fancy!)

This was a quadruple batch a while ago, so know that the above recipe will make much less!

Send some good vibes out in the world and cook for a friend in need!