Baked apples are the epitome of a fall dessert, warming both the belly and the soul. My sweet and tender baked apple recipe features Honeycrisp apples that are filled with a fragrant mixture of butter, brown sugar, spices, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts and pecans for a bit of sweet and spicy crunch!
Baked Apples, Filled with Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice
For me, nothing beats that first, crisp, sweet-tart bite taken out of a juicy Honeycrisp apple during apple season.
Honeycrisp apples are my favorite varietal of apple, because their skin is thin, they're deliciously crunchy and easy to bite through, and have that utterly perfect balance of super sweet-yet-tart flavor that has an almost candy-like apple flavor.
They're extremely versatile as well, perfect to use in all sorts of desserts from apple pie, to apple salad tossed with spicy greens, to caramel apple pie bars.
My latest favorite way to use these spectacular apples is in my baked apple recipe, brimming with a sweet-spicy, buttery and slightly crunchy cranberry nut filling. It's a terrific fall treat to make our home smell like a autumn scented candle!
Tender, rustic and wonderfully aromatic, baked apples are a no-fuss dessert prepared in right around an hour, perfect as a last minute fall dessert when you have a few fresh apples on hand, and you're longing for the flavors of brown sugar, spices, butter, plump cranberries and nuts.
And I love that there is absolutely no pastry to prepare with this apple dessert—the star and “vessel” here is the apple itself!
How to Bake Apples with a Sweet, Spicy Filling
What takes a baked apple recipe from so-so to truly flavorful and delicious is a couple of things: the type of apple used, as well as what you fill the cavities of those apples with.
As I mentioned above, my choice of apple for this recipe is Honeycrisp, because they're already brimming with tons of natural flavor.
And because I like a bit of crunch and texture to my filling ingredients, I use a handful of toasted walnuts, pecans and some plump cranberries combined with brown sugar, butter, and pumpkin pie spice (which has a mix of terrific spices in one bottle).
One could use an apple corer to remove the seeds/core and create the cavity for the filling, or even use a small paring knife, teaspoon, or melon baller. There just needs to be enough apple left intact on the bottom (in other words, don't go all the way through the bottom of the apple) to keep your filling from falling out.
My choice of tool is a melon baller, because I feel it gives me lots of control to carefully remove just enough apple to allow for a good amount of filling to be spooned into the center.
Here's a sneak peek at how I make baked apples with cranberry nut crumble: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I preheat my oven to 375°, and have a pie dish or other medium-small baking dish ready, just large enough to hold 4 apples comfortably.
- Next, I mix together my ingredients for my filling, and set that aside.
- I core my apples, keeping their bottoms intact, and create a cavity large enough for a couple of generous spoonfuls of the filling to be contained.
- Then, I fill each apple with the cranberry nut crumble, place into my baking dish or pie dish, and pour into the bottom of the dish a small amount of apple cider and a hint of bourbon (optional), or even plain water, to help the apples to steam/soften while they bake; next, I cover the apples with foil, and place into the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, I remove the foil and allow the apples to bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until easily pierce with a skewer.
- Once baked, I place my apples onto a serving plate or into a serving dish, and serve them cut in half with dollop of crème fraiche and a drizzle of caramel sauce, my favorite toppings.
Baked Apples with Cranberry Nut Crumble
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: 4 baked apples
Nutrition Info: 455 calories (per baked apple, with 2 tablespoons crème fraiche and 1 tablespoon caramel sauce)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
- ¼ cup softened, unsalted butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped
- 3 tablespoons toasted pecans, chopped
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 4 Honeycrisp apples, or other firm baking apple such as Gala or Rome
- ½ cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice (or water)
- 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
- ½ cup crème fraiche (optional topping)
- Prepared caramel sauce (optional topping)
- Preheat your oven to 375°, and prepare a pie dish, or other baking dish, just large enough to comfortably-yet-snuggly fit 4 apples.
- To prepare your filling, combine the softened butter, oats, brown sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, chopped walnuts and pecans, and cranberries in a medium bowl until well combined, and set aside.
- Create a cavity in your apples by using a melon baller, teaspoon, paring knife or apple corer, taking care to not cut all the way through the bottom of your apple, keeping the bottom intact. Scoop out the seeds and core, and a little bit of the surrounding apple, just enough to generously stuff the cavity with sweet filling.
- Next, spoon equal amounts of the filling into the apple's cavities so that it is slightly overflowing (about 2 generous tablespoons worth), and place the filled apples into the baking dish or pie dish. Mix the apple cider with the 2 tablespoons of bourbon (if using), or simply use water, and carefully pour into the bottom of the dish. Cover everything tightly with foil, and bake the apples for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the foil and return the apples back to the oven, baking them an additional 30 minutes, or until they are tender/easily pierced with a skewer.
- If using apple cider as your cooking liquid, spoon a little over each apple while still hot in the dish, allowing the baked apples to rest for about 5-10 minutes; then, carefully plate each baked apple, slice in half for easier eating, and top with optional crème fraiche and a drizzle of caramel sauce; serve warm.
Tips & Tidbits for my Baked Apples with Cranberry Nut Crumble:
- Best apples for baked apples: My pick for my baked apple recipe is Honeycrisp, but other options are Gala, Pink Lady, Rome, Granny Smith, or any other firmer apple will likely do.
- Flavorful filling for baked apples: It's actually quite fun to get creative with the filling for your baked apples, using your favorite add-ins. I love some varied texture, so I use some softened butter and mix that with some brown sugar, walnuts, pecans, dried cranberries, and spices. Feel free to substitute raisins, or any of your own favorite nuts and dried fruits.
- Keep the baked apples moist by adding liquid while baking: You could totally use water as your liquid to help soften and moisten the apples as they bake, but why not add more flavor? I like to add apple cider or unfiltered apple juice (about ½ cup worth) to my baking dish; that way, I can spoon some of the sweet liquid over the apples before serving.
- Add a little bourbon, for an optional kick: I'm a huge fan of the flavor of bourbon, and love to use it in fall desserts such as this. I add 2 tablespoons of bourbon to my apple juice cooking liquid, but this is totally optional, especially if you're serving kids.
- What to serve baked apples with: Traditionally, vanilla ice cream is often served as an accompaniment to baked apples; but I like to top mine with a dollop of crème fraiche instead (which is not sweet) plus a small drizzle of good-quality, prepared caramel sauce—it's absolutely divine this way!