Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column, published on Thursdays, presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
It’s winter in Colorado, a time for desserts that are warm, cozy and satisfying. These bourbon-toffee apples are just that, perfect to savor on a frosty evening before an open fire. Their appeal comes from contrasts — the play between the warm fruit, crunchy nuts and cool, creamy ice cream. The sauce, rich with bourbon, toffee and molasses, adds a wonderful complexity that takes this dessert over the top.
Serve the apples warm or don’t serve them at all. You can, however, make them earlier in the day and re-heat them. Stick them in a 300-degree oven, under a foil cover, until they are quite warm, re-heat the sauce on the stove, and you’re good to go.
Bourbon-Toffee Baked Apples
Works at any elevation
- ½ cup toasted pecans
- 4 Golden Delicious apples
- 6 tablespoons toffee bits (like those packaged by Heath or Skor)
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more to grease the dish
- 1 ½ cups apple cider
- 3 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, preferably superfine
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Select a baking dish, preferably glass or ceramic, that holds the apples so they are close together but not touching. Butter the bottom of the dish and part way up the sides. Chop half of the pecans into one-fourth to one-half inch pieces.
- Peel and core the apples, leaving the bottom of the apples intact. To core them, cut around the core with a paring knife, stopping before reaching the bottom, and use a melon baller or small, pointed spoon to scrape out the stem, core, and seeds. Place them in the prepared dish and fill each apple’s cavity with a tablespoon of toffee bits, a half-tablespoon of bourbon, and a half-tablespoon of unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces. Scatter the rest of the toffee bits around the bottom of the pan. In a bowl, use a whisk to combine the apple cider, molasses, granulated sugar, and ground ginger. Pour this over the apples and into the baking dish.
- Bake the apples, basting them with the pan juices about every ten minutes, until they are very tender but not mushy. The amount of time this will take depends upon the ripeness and size of the apples you’re using. It usually takes about 1-1½ hours for small apples to bake completely. Test for doneness with a thin skewer or long toothpick; a fork doesn’t give an accurate reading. If the juices start to evaporate and/or thicken before the apples are done, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan.
- When fully baked, remove the apples from the oven, place each apple in a bowl or on a small plate with a high rim, and stuff each cavity with about a tablespoon of the toasted, chopped pecans. Pour the juices from the pan into a small saucepan and boil them until they thicken enough to coat a spoon. Dollop a scoop of ice cream next to or on each apple, sprinkle about a tablespoon of the whole pecans on each plate, pour the thickened juices over top, and serve. Both the apples and the sauce can be made several hours ahead and re-heated.
This recipe is a variation of one published in Bon Appetit.
Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm of Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco. She became a full-time mountain resident in 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at [email protected].
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