Just like peaches, apples are a member of the rose family, and more than 2,500 varieties are grown here in the United States. For this recipe, choose a cooking-type apple that will stand up to long baking with soft and tender results. Good choices include Braeburn, Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious, or Rome. Baked apples are a reliable, comforting, not-too-sweet dessert option with any number of filling and flavoring options. My favorite is to stuff the apples with dates and nuts, sweeten them lightly with maple syrup, and flavor them with warming cinnamon and cardamom. These apples are perfect served warm with a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt. If you don’t have a food processor, chop the dates and walnuts into small (1⁄4-inch) pieces and squeeze the ingredients together to make the filling.

Serves 6

  • 12 dried dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 6 large apples
  • 1 cup no-sugar-added apple juice or water

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a food processor, combine the dates, walnuts, maple syrup, 2 Tbsp. of the oil, 1 1⁄2 tsp. of the cardamom, the cinnamon, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt and process the mixture into a thick paste. There will be small bits of nuts and dates remaining; this is okay.

    Core the apples almost all the way through, leaving the very bottom intact to form a cup to hold the filling. Using a vegetable peeler, peel away one strip of apple skin from the top of each apple. (This will prevent the apples from bursting while they bake.) Using a small spoon or butter knife, stuff the center of each apple with the date filling. Smooth over the top of the filling and set the apples into an 8-inch square baking pan or 9-inch pie plate. Top each apple with 1/4 tsp. of the coconut oil. In a small bowl, whisk the apple juice with the remaining 1/2 tsp. cardamom, then pour the liquid into the bottom of the pan with the apples. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, being careful not to let the foil touch the tops of the apples.

    Bake for about 1 hour, until an apple can be pierced through easily with the tip of a paring knife, the skin is wrinkled, and the top of the date filling is dark brown. Remove the pan from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool for 20 minutes. Serve drizzled with the juices from the pan.

    Swap it out:
  • Simple Baked Apples: Place 1 tsp. butter, 1 1⁄2 tsp. pure maple syrup, and 1 tsp. chopped nuts into an apple cored as above, sprinkle with a light dusting of ground cinnamon or cardamom, and bake as directed.

  • Substitute butter for the coconut oil, honey for the maple syrup, or use another kind of nut.

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