It's apple season again.
It used to be that we'd have to be content with a strictly limited roster: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Macintosh. These days, thanks to adventurous farmers and the resurgence of all kinds of apple varieties, there's a ton of exciting choices.
This abundance practically begs you to assemble the filling for this baked apple treat from a mix of different apples. Just be sure to taste the candidates before you start cooking to get a fix on what each will bring to the table. Is it honey-like? Puckery-tart? Intense? Wine-y? Once you know, you can compose your lineup.
If by chance you have extra time, you should try cooking each variety separately, then tasting it, because the taste and texture of a given apple can change significantly when cooked.
I added dried apricots to the apples for contrast. I love the tartness of dried apricots, particularly California apricots. Or, if you'd prefer some other kind of dried fruit - cherries, raisins, cranberries or dried plums (otherwise known as prunes) - swap out the apricots for your favorite.
The only other flavors in the filling are sugar and lemon juice. You might need to adjust the amounts of these two ingredients depending on the sweetness of the apples.
This kind of dessert - baked fruit with some kind of crust - happens to be my favorite. But crusts can be tricky, particularly pie dough. So this recipe is for the pastry-impaired. Instead of pie dough, we use French toast.
Testing this recipe was a real learning experience for me. I discovered that if I didn't bake the apple/apricot mixture long enough before adding the French toast topping, the apples wouldn't become tender and give up their juice. I suddenly was reminded of cooking with mushrooms, which are so dry that they stick to the skillet when you first throw them in. A couple of minutes later, though, the floodgates open and out pours the liquid.
For this filling, then, you should test the tenderness of the baked apples by piercing them with a paring knife, and check to see if there's juice in the pan. Then you can top it off with the soaked bread.
BAKED APPLES AND
APRICOTS WITH FRENCH TOAST CRUST
Yield: 6 servings
3 to 4 apples, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced 1/4-inch thick (6 cups) 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided 1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 1/3 cup low-fat milk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 4 slices whole wheat bread, crusts discarded, cut in half Low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 F.
In an 8-inch square baking dish, toss the apples with 1/3 cup of the sugar, the apricots and lemon juice. Cover with foil and bake on the oven's middle shelf for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla extract.
When the apples have baked, remove the foil. Dip the bread halves in the egg mixture and arrange them in a single layer over the apples, cutting the bread as necessary to cover all of the apples. If there is any egg mixture left, pour it over the bread. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar, then bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve right away, topped with a small scoop of the vanilla frozen yogurt, if desired.