When I was growing up, each day began with a good breakfast. And breakfast always began with a serving of fruit. On chilly mornings, my favorite fruit offering was my mother’s delicious homemade baked apples.
My mama baked apples the old-fashioned way, in the oven. Usually in individual glass serving dishes. She’d bake up a dozen at a time, enough to last a few days in our family of four. She’d carefully core, score, and season each apple individually, and then slowly bake them in the oven for up to an hour while the oven was also cooking our dinner – then reheat each apple individually before serving it.
Have I mentioned lately that my mama is, to my 21st-century parenting existence, a domestic goddess whose prowess I can never hope to emulate?
But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up my love of baked apples. I’ve just figured out a few hacks to get the same yummy taste in a fraction of the time.
And thanks to these hacks, my kiddos and I can enjoy baked apples for breakfast whenever the urge strikes us.
So the next time you’re in the mood to have something tummy-warming for breakfast, and/or get your kiddos to eat more fruit, give this recipe – or one of the variations at the end – a try. (P.S. If you follow the basic recipe below, your child is getting in 1-2 servings of fruit, protein and healthy fats, plus fiber and healthy carbs; add a glass of milk and a slice of whole-grain toast, and your kiddo’s off to a well-rounded start to their day!)
Ten-Minute Tummy-Warming Baked Apples
Two preschool- to elementary-school-sized servings (see notes at end for scaling up or down)
Prep time: approx. 5 minutes; total time: approx. 10 minutes
What you’ll need:
- One large or two small apples, washed and dried
- Two small microwave-safe bowls, plus something to cover them with. (If you don’t have a silicone microwave-steaming cover or small bowls with lids, you can use an upside-down plate or microwave-safe plastic wrap.)
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The basic idea:
- Core each apple, quarter it, and cut it into bite-sized chunks. If using one large apple, put the chunks from half an apple in each bowl. If using two small apples, put one apple’s worth of chunks in each bowl.
- To each bowl, add 2 teaspoons each of raisins and walnuts. (Break the walnuts into smaller pieces, or chop/grind if you prefer, before adding to the bowl.) Sprinkle a generous pinch of brown sugar over each bowl and add a dash of cinnamon on top of each.
- Add 2 t. of water to each bowl and cover. Microwave each bowl for several minutes total, until the apple is cooked and soft. (How long each apple takes to cook will depend on how powerful your microwave is. We have a 1100-watt oven and it takes only 2 minutes per apple, or 3-4 minutes if we cook them at the same time.)
- After cooking, uncover promptly and allow the apple to cool for several minutes before eating.
- If you have a good apple corer, your school-age kids can even help with the prep work. This is our corer, and even five-year-old Essie can use it safely and effectively.
- No, you don’t have to use walnuts if your kid’s allergic to them! Or raisins, or anything else. Experiment with the flavors you like best. Dates? Craisins? Other dried fruit? Sliced almonds? Whatever sounds yummy to you-all, give it a try.
- Likewise, feel free to experiment with the sweetening (maple syrup, agave, honey, raw sugar, etc.). The same is true for the spice; nutmeg, allspice, and pumpkin pie spice are among my favorites besides cinnamon.
- For smaller appetites, try 1/2 of a medium apple and 1 teaspoon each of the toppings. Or, for bigger kids and grownups, use an entire medium apple and 1 tablespoon of each topping.
- For the littlest eaters, I’d recommend chopping raisins and nuts finely, and consider using an immersion blender on the finished product once it’s cooled. This will require a little more planning ahead, though. (If you’ve never tried an immersion blender, here are some of the ways ours has totally transformed my food prep experience for the better!)
For traditionalists: Old-school baking tips
When my mom used to bake a dozen apples at once, she used small glass oven-safe custard dishes like these.
- After coring each apple and scoring the outside skin (think making cuts like you’re going to cut it into bite-sized chunks, but only cutting through the skin so the meat inside stays intact), she would place each apple in its own bowl.
- Then she’d pour the other dry ingredients into the hole left by removing the core, put a small pat of butter on top, pour the water around the edge, and bake in a 350-degree F oven for a half hour or more, or a 300-degree oven up to an hour.
- After letting them cool, she’d cover each bowl with foil or plastic wrap, and pop each uncovered bowl in the microwave for a minute before serving, to reheat the apple.
Scaling up for special occasions
I also do 8×8 or 9×13 glass baking dishes of apples in the oven for special occasions, like Thanksgiving or Christmas morning breakfast.
- If you have “perfectly” shaped apples, this will work by just coring the apples, scoring the outside of the skin into bite-sized markings (which makes serving and eating the cooked apples easier), setting the apples into the pan, pouring fillings directly into each hollowed-out core, and then putting the pan into the oven.
- But if your apples are less-than-perfect, you’ll find that they won’t sit nicely in the pan without falling over. In this case, you can cut them into either wedges or large chunks, and then sprinkle the toppings evenly over the top. For an 8×8 dish of 8 apples, I would add approximately 1/2 cup each of raisins and chopped nuts, 1/4 to 1/3 c. brown sugar, several small pats of butter scattered across the top, a good sprinkling of cinnamon and/or other spices.
- One of the reasons I like baking special-occasion large batches in Pyrex glass baking pans is because you can just prep the apples the night before, pop a plastic lid on top, refrigerate overnight, and then bake in the morning, so they’re freshly-made for your holiday meal.
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