Gosh, how times have changed. When we were growing up, we were occasionally allowed to bring a bramley apple in from the orchard, slice it thinly and dip the cold pieces in white granulated sugar before eating it. Mind you, my mother did keep an eye on us to make sure we did not eat too many of these deliciously wincingly bitter sweet treats as she knew and indeed we knew, that too many slices could definitely lead to “a pain in my tummy”. I vividly remember the crunchy texture of the sugar and the almost lemony tang of the bitter apple. It was without doubt what would nowadays be called a taste sensation. I wonder how many children taste such a thing these days – not too many I suspect in a world full of terrifying and mixed messages about food. We must not forget the joy of food, the joy of remembered moments around the table, the joy of sharing and of memories made.
There is something rather lovely about a baked apple though, they have a retro appeal certainly, but much more importantly, when properly cooked at the correct time of the year, they are a joy. The best time as far as I am concerned is when the apples are either still on the trees or shortly afterwards. When they are fresh off the tree, they are full of juice and this yield the fluffiest and lightest baked apple. The apple I always bake is the crimson variety of the bramley which has the most delicate pink hue to the steaming froth within.
The timing of a baked apple is all important. The flesh of the cooked apple needs to be cooked through and almost like froth, and at the same time the apple should look as plump as a pigeon at harvest time. An overcooked baked apple is a sad, shrivelled and dishevelled sight. I am still as amused by the pale marshmallow pink midriff of the cooked apple just beginning to ooze out of the stretched and shrinking skin, as I was when I watched them coming out of the oven at home as a child.
By the time these apples are cooked, the chocolate will have melted into a sauce which combines beautifully with the juices in the bottom of the roasting dish, the raisins and hazelnuts adding further texture and flavour,
I like cold softly whipped cream with the hot apples which I serve on hot plates. Others will perhaps like thin custard.
Preheat the oven to 180c
Using an apple corer, punch a hole right down though the core of the apple. If the hole looks a little narrow, I sometimes punch a second hole to make plenty of room for the filling. Now you need to cut and make an incision about 1 mm deep all around the belly of the apple. This allows the cooking skin to shrink in the cooking and prevents the apple from bursting.
Place the apples in an oven proof baking dish. The apples should be snug but not touching each other
Start filling each apple with 1 teaspoon of sugar followed by some chocolate, then some butter raisins and hazelnuts. Use a little force such as your thumb, to press the ingredients into the opening and push in as much as you can. All of the chocolate, hazelnuts and raisins that will not fit in the hollowed apples are scattered around the apples in the dish. Top each stuffed apple with the remaining sugar and pour the apple juice over and around.
Cover the dish with a piece of dampened parchment paper.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for c 30 minutes or until the apples are completely tender but still holding their shape.
Serve the apples as soon as possible on hot plates and spoon over the delicious juices, fruit and nuts from the baking dish.
Chilled softly whipped cream is the perfect accompaniment.