I’m gearing up for a festive holiday season here at Outside Oslo, and the Christmas baking has already begun! With all the talk we’ll be doing about cakes and tarts, cookies, and candy in the weeks to come, I’m going to take a moment today, before we begin, to share with you an easy and relatively healthy alternative to the rich and decadent foods that the holiday season often brings. The recipe? Almond-filled baked apples with a subtly sweet vanilla cream.
Apples and almonds are two common ingredients in Scandinavian baking, and cookbook author Beatrice Ojakangas has created a simple and rustic recipe that contains so little sugar that I’ve even enjoyed this for breakfast. This isn’t a meet-the-parents sort of dessert, or one that’s meant to impress. Rather, it’s one to enjoy either by yourself or for your family, maybe while reading a book by the fire after dinner, on a weeknight when you’re hoping to treat them to a little something sweet without all the calories and sugar often found in sweets this time of year. True, you could add a little extra sugar and replace the milk with cream. But to me that somehow misses the point. This is weeknight food that highlights the soft, comforting flavors of fall, and is a dessert I’d even feel okay about feeding my little boy.
Almond-Stuffed Baked Apples with Vanilla Cream
Adapted from Scandinavian Feasts by Beatrice Ojakangas
4 large tart baking apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup blanched almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch (cornstarch will also work)
3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Core and halve the apples lengthwise and arrange them in a shallow baking pan, face up. Combine almonds, 1/4 cup sugar, and water in a small bowl and stir until they reach a paste-like consistency, then fill the apples with the mixture.
Pour the melted butter over the top of the apple halves, then sprinkle with a mixture of bread crumbs and brown sugar.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the apples are tender but still hold their shape. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, make vanilla cream. Combine egg, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, potato start, and milk in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly. Continuing to stir, allow the mixture to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until thickened slightly. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool until ready to serve, then stir in the vanilla extract.
Chill cream until ready to serve. Arrange apples in serving bowls and pour cream over around then apples and over the top.
Serves 4-8, depending on whether you want to serve one or two halves per person.