Once again, we headed out to pick apples. It takes a few minutes longer than going to the store, but we know the apples are fresh, we know they’re grown without pesticides, we know they’re local, and they’re really inexpensive: 50¢ a pound! Let’s see you get 10 pounds of pesticide-free apples for $5 at Dul-Mart. Of course, sometimes when we pick them, we aren’t really sure what we’re going to do with all those apples — they fill one crisper drawer in our fridge.
Fortunately, we have the Scratchin’ Central library, plus access to the assorted branches, so we head out into the stacks searching for recipes involving apples. This time, down in the vaults, we found a recipe for Long and Slow Apples by Dorie Greenspan (from her book Around my French Table) that sounded something like a super dense apple pie filling. Mmm! Let’s scratch this out, but be forewarned, this does take a while to bake — that’s what’s meant by long and slow — so make sure you have the time before making these Long and Slow Apples.
Makes 2 servings.
For the apples, we used a Granny Smith and several Galas, which worked very well. Ideally, you want to use a crisp, semi-sweet apple, or a mix of apples. Use unsalted butter, as salty apples probably wouldn’t taste too good. And freshly ground nutmeg does taste different from the pre-ground stuff, so you should think about getting some and grating it yourself. We use a small micro-plane grater for the nutmeg that works perfectly.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 300°F. While you’re at it, line a baking sheet with a silicone mat and find a couple of baking dishes (or four medium-size, about 8-ounce, ramekins) that nest together. The apples will compress to about one-half their size during baking and you want to apply a slight amount of pressure at all times. Butter one of the dishes (or two of the ramekins).
Whisk sugar and spice. In a small bowl — we just used a measuring cup — whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Slice apples. Slice the apples as thinly as you can manage; 1/16 of an inch is about right. If you have a mandoline, it would work perfectly here, as long as you use the hand guard so you don’t slice your fingertips into the apples. Otherwise, a sharp chef’s knife will work.
Layer apples. Place a layer of apples in the baking dish, brush with butter, and sprinkle with the sugar mixture. Continue doing this until the apples are stacked over the top of the dish. We didn’t realize how much the apples would reduce during baking, so we didn’t stack ours high enough. Learn from our experience and go over the top with the apples, if possible.
Wrap in plastic. People will tell you outright that the plastic wrap will not melt. That is partly correct. It will not melt, provided it’s in close contact with the apples. This means that, when you wrap the dish and the apples, you want to have enough slack in the top of the plastic so it will be in contact with the apples even when they’ve been cooked down to half their current height.
Wrap in foil. Now wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil, again keeping enough slack in the top, so that, as the apples shrink while baking, the aluminum foil can sink down, too, keeping the pressure on the apples. Pierce the foil and plastic in several places.
Press. Place the other ramekins or baking dish on top and place the whole contraption on your prepared baking sheet.
Bake. Slide it all into the oven and bake undisturbed for 2 hours. Turn off oven and let apples sit in the hot oven for another 30 to 60 minutes.
Cool. Remove from oven, and let cool without removing anything. You can even place it all in the fridge, still wrapped with the additional dish on top, until it’s chilled.
Serve. Unwrap, run a dull knife around the edge, and upend the apples onto a plate to serve. Traditionally, these apples are served with whipped cream, but they’re quite good on their own, too.
We ate these as a dessert. It was like eating a super dense, very apple-y apple pie, without the crust. Wait, take that back, the apples were even softer than apple pie filling, more like a thick custard, making them almost melt in your mouth. Would you believe that of apples? Until we tried them, we wouldn’t have thought that apples could be this creamy. We think this is a nice fall or winter dessert, especially if you already have the oven on, perhaps for a slow-baked casserole of some sort; that way, you can bake your meal and dessert all at once, without a single glance in the oven. Four stars.