Happy New Year, dear friends. I hope 2022 is off to a grand start for all of you. Six days in and so far I can’t complain yet! It’s been snowy and very cold here in Saskatoon, and I’ve largely been hunkering down with the cats and Dixon, catching up on episodes of Ted Lasso. Not a bad way to start the year! I’ve also been making us delicious things to eat, of course, and these baked apples were like a cozy hug - warm and soothing. The perfect winter food.
I didn’t use just any apple here - I used Cosmic Crisp Washington State apples. They’re crispier and sweeter than other varieties and naturally slow to brown. The Cosmic Crisp was classically bred in Washington State University and is non-GMO. A cross between ‘Honeycrisp’ and ‘Enterprise’, the Cosmic Crisp apple is sweet, large, and juicy, with a firm, crisp texture. Because of this impeccable taste and texture, Cosmic Crisps are perfect for snacking, cooking and baking. For baked apples, you want an apple that will hold its shape, and the Cosmic Crisp is absolutely perfect for this recipe.
If you’ve never baked apples and filled them with a streusel topping, you’re in for a real treat. Perhaps you’re looking for a more healthful dessert option, or just a creative way to get more fruit in your diet, this recipe ticks both of those boxes. Plus, they’re pretty gorgeous to look at if I do say so myself!
First things first, you’re going to want to make the brown butter streusel topping. Brown butter makes everything butter, and the nutty, caramel notes really lay the foundation for a delicious dessert. To that gorgeous butter, you’ll stir in brown sugar and vanilla extract. Dry ingredients go in next, and I amped up the flour with ground flaxseed, oats, and walnuts, along with ground cinnamon and a pinch of star anise. Have I mentioned how fabulous these apples smell? So good! The Cosmic Crisps are cut in half from bottom to stem, and then hollowed out using a small spoon or a melon baller. You don’t need a massive space, just enough to fill with the tasty oat topping. Before they go into the oven, I like to pour some water into the skillet to encourage the apple to soften as it bakes. After 20 minutes, the foil is removed so the streusel topping can brown and the water can reduce. Bake for another 35-45 minutes, depending on the size of your apples, until the apples are tender and soft but not mushy.
I love how the homemade, buttery streusel sits atop the Cosmic Crisp apple half, seeping down into the hollow core, making the baked apple almost molten-like. The aroma alone embodies the cozy comfort of winter, and the warm, soft flesh of the Cosmic Crisp apple contrasts with the buttery crunch of the streusel, tantalizing all of the taste buds. These baked apples are definitely a feast for the senses! If you want to push the boat out even further, add a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of icing sugar. These are the days for small luxuries.
Cosmic Crisp apples are available across Canada at most major retailers, and remember that once you get them home, store them in the refrigerator’s crisper for optimal freshness, texture, and flavour.
Baked Cosmic Crisp Apples with Brown Butter Streusel Topping
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar, divided
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground star anise or nutmeg
pinch of salt
4 Cosmic Crisp apples
whipped cream for serving, optional
icing sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter, swirling occasionally. The butter will foam up and smell nutty. Remove the pan from the heat once the butter starts to brown. There will be browned bits on the bottom of the pan and the butter will be amber in colour.
3. Pour the butter into a medium bowl and stir in 1/2 cup brown sugar, vanilla, flour, oats, flaxseed, walnuts, spices, and salt. Mix well.
4. Cut the apples in half from stem to end. Use a melon baller or small spoon to scoop out the core and seeds. Scoop out a nice little cavern so there is enough room to fill the apples. Remove the stems too.
5. Place the apples in an oven-proof 12-inch skillet with the flesh facing up. Sprinkle each apple with a little of the remaining brown sugar. Fill each apple with some of the streusel topping, pressing down firmly so that the topping doesn’t fall out. Pour 3/4 cup of hot water into the skillet, being careful not to get any water on the apples. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 35-45 minutes until the apples are soft and tender but not mushy.
6. Remove the skillet from the oven and serve warm with whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream) and dust with icing sugar if desired. Makes 8 servings.