If I'm not feeling like making something elaborate and just want an easy, warm dessert to end an evening, this is where I turn: baked apples. Scoop out the core and stuff the insides with a mix of oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The baked apples soften into a spoonable treat while the brown sugar melts down into a caramel syrup.
The only thing that could make this simple autumn dessert even better would be a scoop of ice cream on the side. Naturally.
My mom made this dessert all the time when we were kids, and we loved it. Besides the straight-up oatmeal and brown sugar mix, she would sometimes add nuts, raisins, or even a scoop of cream cheese or peanut butter as an extra-special treat. For my brother and me, this was the most decadent treat imaginable; while I'm sure my parents loved having a fairly wholesome dessert with which to satisfy their sugar-loving children.
I appreciate this dessert even more now that I'm grown. It still satisfies a weeknight craving for something warm and sweet, but I've also made a double batch for an easy dinner party dessert. Dressed up with a scoop of ice cream, a dollop of crème fraîche, or a drizzle of chocolate sauce, baked apples are a crowd-pleaser — and it's a good one to have in your back pocket for gluten-free and vegan guests, too.
P.S. Any leftover apples make a fantastic breakfast the next day. I should know — I've eaten enough of them!
Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Baked Apples
Serves 4, easily multiplied for larger crowds
medium apples, such as Jonagold, Fuji, or Honeycrisp
packed brown sugar
old-fashioned rolled oats
Pinch ground cloves
unsalted butter, cut in 4 pieces
- Optional extras:
Orange zest, lemon zest, grated ginger, candied ginger, raisins or other dried fruit, chopped nuts, cream cheese, mascarpone, peanut butter, Nutella
- For serving:
ice cream, crème fraîche, whipped cream, coconut whipped cream
Arrange a rack in the lower-middle position of the oven and heat to 375°F.
Remove the core of the apples, cutting to within a half-inch of the bottom of the apple and creating a well roughly 3/4-inch wide. This is easy to do with an apple corer, but can also be done with a melon baller, grapefruit spoon, or a paring knife.
Place the brown sugar, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and any extras in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Divide this mixture between the apples, packing the wells firmly.
Arrange the apples in a baking dish (like an 8x8-inch Pyrex dish), and top each one with a pat of butter. Pour the water into the bottom of the dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the apples are soft and the brown sugar has melted into a syrup, 20 to 30 minutes more. You can test the apples by poking a paring knife through the oatmeal mixture and into the interior of the apple; it should slide into the apple easily with no resistance. The skin on the apples will also become wrinkled and soft by the end of cooking. Serve with a scoop of ice cream, crème fraîche, or whipped cream.
Gluten-free baked apples: Be sure to use a gluten-free brand of oatmeal if making this for someone with a celiac or gluten intolerance.
Vegan baked apples: Skip the butter and serve the apples either plain or with coconut whipped cream.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days and can be reheated in the microwave or eaten cold.