I love autumn. While spring is all green and fresh and lovely, the colors of autumn are incredible. I love all that it brings: the beautiful changing colors on the trees, pumpkins, the slight nip in the cooler air, sweaters, boots and apples!
Simply biting into a crisp and juicy apple all on its own, going apple picking out in the country, apple cider and doughnuts (the plain old deep-fried kind!), apple pie, applesauce, apple fritter muffins, apple chutney, apple butter… you get the idea, this girl likes apples!
One of my favorite apple-icious desserts are stuffed, baked apples – apple goodness topped with sweet cinnamon streusel sitting in a little pool of gooey caramel… come on now, what’s not to love? And your entire home smelling all warm and inviting? It’s simply the best bonus ever!
The only decision you’ll have to make ahead of time is whether you want to prepare your own caramel sauce or use store-bought. There are so many really great prepared caramel sauces out there that you really can’t go wrong – but if you’ve been wanting to try your hand at homemade caramel, there couldn’t be a better time (it’s not hard, I promise!). A favorite store-bought version at The Chopping Block is American Spoon’s Salted Maple Caramel.
If you do want to try making your own, however, all you’ll need is 1 cup of sugar, 1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons), 1/2 cup of heavy (whipping) cream, a heavy saucepan and a little bit of patience – about 15-20 minutes’ worth.
Here’s a little video to show you how to get that caramel sauce pulled together:
That’s a pot of yumminess, right there! Beautiful amber color, smooth and rich – perfect caramel.
If you are using store-bought caramel, you want to be sure it is soft enough to be thick-but-pourable when you’re ready for it. So this would be a good time to take the jar and set it inside a pan or bowl of hot water to soften it up!
While waiting for your homemade caramel to cool – or your store-bought caramel to warm up - let’s make the streusel topping.
Here’s a video to show you just how quickly this comes together:
With the streusel topping ready to go, now we can get to the apples! Good apples for baking include Fuji, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady and Honeycrisp – it all depends on your own taste, whether you like your apples a little more tart, a little more sweet or somewhere in between. Make what you enjoy! This will make from four to six apples, depending on the sizes you end up with.
With your oven preheating to 350⁰, it’s time to cut out the inside of your apples to create little “apple bowls”. Here’s a demonstration of just how to do that to get them ready for stuffing:
Now go grab that caramel! Mix enough caramel with the chopped apple you set aside so that it holds together a little bit, and will allow you to spoon the mixture into your apples.
I like to use a muffin/cupcake tin to bake the apples in. It helps them stay standing upright while they are baking and I find it also keeps the bottoms from getting too soggy. So, with your apples in a muffin tin (or a baking dish, if you prefer), fill them with the apple-caramel mixture.
Finally, generously top the apples with the streusel mixture. I like to set the muffin tin on a baking sheet just in case anything spills over. It’s a lot easier for me to clean up a baking sheet than it is to clean my oven!
These should be served warm, and from here it will take only about 30-35 minutes before they are ready. So if you want to hold off on baking them right away, just cover them lightly and set them aside at room temperature.
Bake the apples for 20-25 minutes until the streusel looks crispy. My advice is to close all your windows so the amazing aroma stays inside your home!
Once they come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes. Then drizzle a little pool of caramel on a plate and set the apple in the middle. If caramel really makes your heart sing, then go ahead and drizzle some more over the top – or just keep it in a bowl to pass around the table for whoever wants more!
Welcoming apple season is a really big deal at The Chopping Block! Apple Fest at our Lincoln Square location focuses on all-things-apple: lots of pies, sampling, baking, demonstrations – even t-shirts! Be sure to stop by and see us September 30 and October 1.
We'll be serving up our Famous Apple Pie with Handmade Whipped Cream and Pulled Pork Sandwiches with CowTown BBQ Sauce and Apple Slaw. You can wash it all down with hard cider from Right Bee Cider, apple liqueur from Journeyman Distillery and sparkling wine from Michigan that just screams green apple!