Nothing makes me happier than cooking something for someone who really loves that particular food. This weekend I get to make the quintessential autumn dinner for a friend who has been waiting all year for it! We'll have my special braised pork (my own invention) with its rich sauce, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, a crisp and cool autumn salad and this baked applesauce. (My friend's husband has a real craving for eggnog, so I've decided to make a batch of eggnog for dessert.)
Apparently baked applesauce has been around for years--how did I miss that issue of Bon Appètit?--but I didn't give it a thought until I happened onto the wonderful blog Circle B Kitchen. I really like the level of sugar and spices in my own applesauce recipe, so I stayed with that and used my own variation on the baking method Patrice described.
I don't know that it's any "easier" than cooking it on the stovetop, but you don't have to peel and chop then check on it and stir it; you just stick it in the oven and don't give it another thought for 45 minutes. Have you tried it? How do you make applesauce? What is your favorite apple for sauce? I used organic Galas for this batch and left it a bit chunky.
(Makes about 5 cups, 6 to 10 servings)
12 medium apples (about 6 pounds), halved and cored
1/2 cup water
1 or 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 18x13x1-inch half-sheet pan* with cooking spray. Place the apple halves cut side down on baking sheet and add water to pan.
2 Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until the apples are wrinkly and falling-apart soft. Remove from oven, and leave the apples in the pan. I didn't want to wait till the apples were cool enough to handle, so I just used a dinner fork and soup spoon and mashed each apple half in its place in the baking sheet.
3 Leaving apple halves skin-side up, mash them completely down with fork (one at a time). All the soft apple will squeeze out and you'll be left with a clean piece of peel to discard. Sprinkle the mashed apples with lemon juice.
4 In small bowl, whisk together sugar, spices and salt. Sprinkle the warm apples with sugar mixture. Keep stirring until all sugar is dissolved. If too dry, add a little water one tablespoon at a time.
5 Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.
The following are good sauce apples: Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Empire, Rome, Macoun, Pink Lady, Jonathon, Jonagold, Gala.
*If you don't have one of these Sheet Pan Half Size - 12-7/8'' x 17-3/4'' Heavy Duty, 13 Gauge, you need to get one right away!