Every fall I try to think of fun and different Apple recipes to take advantage this awesome autumn fruit with its growing number of varieties. My grandmother has many tasty Apple dessert recipes in “The Art of Fine Baking.” I’ve been baking my way through them and posting those such as Apple Cheesecake Puff and Sauteed Apple Cake on this site. The majority of these Apple recipes are more refined desserts, fit for a crowd or dinner party. I often crave something easier, something that takes the idea of Apple pie but simplifies, making it guilt-free in the process. Well maybe not entirely guilt-free, but at least more so than a traditional Apple pie or the over-the-top (but awesomely delicious) Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce I made last year. These sweet cinnamon baked apple snack stacks are the perfect compromise.
This recipe might be over the top. It didn’t start out that way but before I could realize what was happening, I had created the most delicious and elaborate Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce that I have ever had. The plan was originally a minimalist approach. My grandmother doesn’t have a baked whole apple recipe (though she has many other apple recipes) but her mentor, James Beard has a very simple one in “The James Beard Cookbook.” It offers a few options of varying spices for the cavity of the apples but doesn’t venture as far as stuffing them. It even offers a flamed version which involves pouring heated alcohol over the apple and igniting it (“bring to the table blazing”) but I thought it might be best to avoid burning down my apartment building or at least the complaints of “fire smell” from the neighbors. Perhaps I will wait for a special occasion.
I settled for a simple spiced baked apple. But I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing or that it somehow lacked the excitement I was looking for. That’s when I decided to stuff it with crisp. Apple crisp is a favorite I make at least a few times every fall. It’s hard to go wrong with oats, sugar, butter, flour, and cinnamon so why not stuff a whole apple with this lovely crumbly topping? This simple baked apple was getting more interesting.
I then thought about those lonely parts of the apple that wouldn’t be exposed to the tasty crisp. Perhaps it needed a sauce? Enter my second favorite apple accompaniment: Caramel. And not just any caramel, easy homemade caramel sauce. Drizzled over the finished juicy baked apple stuffed with the cinnamon spiced crisp, it’s a combination to die for. I was already out of control so I topped the finished warm apple with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Melting into the crevices of the crisp and dripping down the sides of the apple while mixing with the caramel sauce, excessiveness never looked or tasted so good.
When I found this recipe nestled in the puff pastry and strudel section of “The Art of Fine Baking,” the end result seemed difficult to visualize and definitely wasn’t what I expected from a recipe with the title “Sauteed Apple Cake.” I therefore had to try it. Layers of flaky puff pastry hold buttery sautéed apples and a giant dollop of sweetened whipped cream with a crunch of almond ties it all together. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.
As shown in the photos, I chopped the apples in fairly large pieces so that they wouldn’t become too mushy during the saute process. However, I actually think the finished cake benefits from slightly smaller pieces or just slices, because it holds together better. The taste, of course, isn’t affected either way and is reminiscent of apple pie.
I made the flaky puff pastry (or “puff paste” as it is referred to in the book) layers from scratch…yes, from scratch. Homemade Puff Pastry is pretty much unheard of today. It’s very time consuming and it also makes you very aware of how much butter you are consuming when eating something as simple as a turnover or palmier. I actually enjoyed the process of repeatedly rolling the dough to create the butter layers. The resulting pastry tastes richer and a little more pure than those made with frozen puff pastry. However, such a lengthy process isn’t for everyone and this recipe can be made easily using the frozen version for this same unique twist on a cake.
1/2 recipe Homemade Puff Pastry or two sheets frozen puff pastry
2 egg whites mixed with
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Sauteed Apple Filling
3 lbs tart apples – such as granny smith- peeled, cored, and sliced or coursely chopped
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If using homemade puff pastry, roll out pastry slightly less than 1/8 inch thick. Trim edges. Divide into two 8 inch squares and 4 strips 1/2 inch wide. Place squares on baking sheet. Brush one square with egg white mixture and arrange strips along edges to make a border. Chill both squares. Just before baking, brush plain square with egg white mixture. Sprinkle it with granulated sugar and sliced almonds. Bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
While pastry bakes, make apple filling: In a large skillet, saute chopped apples with butter over medium heat. Sprinkle apples while they cook with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Turn occasionally with a spatula to lightly brown apples on all sides. Do not stir or apples will become mushy. When they are tender or lightly browned, remove from heat.
Pile apples into baked shell. Fit sugared square on top. Serve warm with whipped cream.
To re-warm: place in 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.