When your apples are too far gone for pie, make applesauce.
And when you are too lazy to make applesauce, make oven applesauce.
I did see that the Barefoot Contessa had a recipe for applesauce in the oven, but I was actually too lazy to even follow it. Plus, she used butter. Which I can’t. And is that even necessary?
So I basically cut up my old apples with my exciting new apple slicing tool (see below), made sure all of the seeds were out, and covered them with liquid and baked. The side benefit I hadn’t anticipated? Oven roasted apples caramelize and take on a whole new, richer, deeper flavor.
Depending on the juice content of the apples you use and how much liquid you decide to add, you can either eat them fresh out of the oven with a little bit of yogurt or run them through the blender with a little bit of added liquid and make the darkest, most satisfying applesauce you have ever tasted. Either way, no peeling (the peels soften to the point of non-existence during cooking) and the best-smelling kitchen of your life.
Note to realtors: Nobody can bake cookies every weekend without developing a gut. Throw some old apples in a big pot of water and add a couple of cinnamon sticks and a squirt of lemon juice and set in a 200 degree oven for 3 hours. Instant homey smell without the calories.
My writing group met this weekend for our annual round-up of writing goals. I was sincerely proud of what other people had accomplished but discouraged by my own lack of progress. The Middle Grade Gothic novel I wrote is much improved after dozens of drafts but to what end?
And some selfish library patron is still reading (or hoarding) the Eric Ambler book I want to read next. Ambler is the guy who either invented or honed the modern spy novel (depending who you ask) and his writing is simply amazing. Although I probably shouldn’t be telling anyone else if I ever want to get my book.
I think I cook because it’s something I can finish — and enjoy — and share with others. Unlike most of what I write.
Applesauce in the Oven (adapted from Ina Garten)
Apples — doesn’t matter what kind or how many
Maple syrup or brown sugar to taste
A pinch or more of salt
Liquid including at least something acidic, such as orange or lemon juice
Cinnamon and maybe even other spices (I used my favorite pumpkin pie spice mix — and I used a whole lot of it)
Preheat your oven to about 300 if you are using a big oven-safe stew pot such as I have pictured above. Another time I used a casserole dish and cooked the apples at 200 degrees until they were fork-soft for twice as long.
Cut the apples open and remove the cores and seeds, cutting away rotten spots. That’s it. No peeling.
Cover the apples with liquid. You can use anything from cider to wine to orange juice or some combination of whatever you have on hand. Make sure to include at least one acidic juice. I bet a dash of cider vinegar would work well if you are completely out of citrus.
Add sweetener if desired. The Barefoot Contessa and others recommend brown sugar but I wanted a lower glycemic index so I added a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup instead. For the version pictured above, I used two cinnamon sticks which I fished out afterwards, rinsed, and reused to mull cider. Later, when the holidays were done, I just used a whole bunch of pumpkin pie spice in my baked apple sauce. Both alternatives smell great while cooking.
Bake your apple mess until the apples are soft and liquid. This can take 1 to 2 hours but what’s the rush? The whole house will be infused with a dreamy, apples-and-cinnamon scent that evokes the joy of pie.
I put half in the blender after one batch because my mother doesn’t like chunks in her apple sauce but I like mine al dente, fresh out of the oven, served with a drizzle of yogurt or a a slice of cherry cake.