created at: 2013-09-25
I’ve found that the best way to warm up a house is to invite friends over for dinner. The crisp fall air doesn’t stand a chance against lively conversation and a hot oven.

But a word of warning to any potential dinner-party attendee: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. That space that people usually “save for dessert”? I fill it up with more dinner. In the battle of sweet versus savory, savory always wins with me.

I always like to devote more time to planning and preparing the main course. But I recognize that a good dessert is the exclamation point on a good meal, and that hosting people for dinner and not serving dessert is like skipping the encore after a really great concert. So I’m always looking for easy desserts that don’t require too much time to prepare.

Fortunately for me, apples make for desserts that are easy to execute and perfect for the season. This recipe, a combination of baked apples and apple crisp, is made even easier by getting rid of any skillful knife work and simply lopping the apples in half. I like to do this after preparing the topping so the fruit doesn’t have time to sit around and oxidize.

This recipe serves four but can easily be adjusted to make more. It’s a dish that even I save room for!

Pecan-Crisped Apples

Serves 4

2 Gala or Granny Smith apples
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup chopped pecans
½ cup old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons apple cider

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, combine butter, pecans, oats, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Stir to combine.

2. Peel each apple and halve it lengthwise. Slice off bottom of each half so it sits flat. Using melon baller or tablespoon measure, scoop out core, creating 1½-inch cavity. Place apple halves in 9×9 baking dish.

3. Spoon generous portions of filling into each apple half, mounding excess on top. Pour apple cider and 2 tablespoons maple syrup into baking dish. Bake until apples can be easily pierced with a paring knife, but still keep their shape, about 40 minutes, basting apples with cider/syrup liquid twice during cooking. Serve immediately.