{ kicked-up baked apples }

I love Cook's Illustrated Magazine - and editor Christopher Kimball, besides being a chef and food scientist, is also a wonderful writer. I get his newsletter and visit his blog just for the entertainment of it.

There is a bit of controversy going on over there because he smacked the world of "wiki recipes" - these are places where people share recipes just like wikipedia shares content. Kimball doesn't think that recipes that internet folks (like food bloggers) exchange with each other are as reliable as his type of "test kitchen" recipes. Here's what he said,
"In terms of recipes, no, I do not believe in a Wiki website, with a community opining on recipes as a means of creating a valuable database. Making a recipe 75 times in a test kitchen under controlled circumstances (yes, this is deeply self-serving) is vastly better than the voices of millions under less the ideal circumstances, with kitchens with a host of different problems/equipment/etc. Go ahead and make that broccoli casserole off your Google search and see how you like it! In cooking, as in all things, there is a right way and a wrong way. Very little in life is truly relative."

Back to the subject of Baked Apples...
I found this recipe on Kimball's blog and thought of my daughter Suzie. She loves baked apples. (Me, I'm not a fan.) Suz used to come home from school and cook a baked apple in the microwave. Chistopher Kimball would probably not recommend that! But THIS recipe really sounds good. A bit more complicated that the micro, but good. You stuff the apples with a filling and drench with a maple/apple cider syrup. Tell me how you like it, Suzie!

The Best Baked Apples

If you prefer sweeter apples Golden Delicious, Braeburn, and Fuji apples can be substituted for the Granny Smith. If you don’t have an ovenproof skillet, transfer the browned apples to a 13- by 9- inch baking dish and bake as directed. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

7 large (about 6 ounces each) Granny Smith apples

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1/3 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

3 tablespoons old-fashioned oats

½ teaspoon finely grated zest from 1 orange

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch table salt

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Peel, core, and cut 1 apple into ¼-inch dice. Combine 5 tablespoons of butter, brown sugar, cranberries, pecans, oats, orange zest, cinnamon, diced apple, and salt in large bowl; set aside.

2. Shave thin slice off bottom (blossom end) of remaining 6 apples to allow them to sit flat. Cut top ½-inch off stem end of apples and reserve. Peel apples and use melon baller or small measuring spoon to remove 1 ½-inch diameter core, being careful not to cut through bottom of apple.

3. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in 12-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Once foaming subsides, add apples, stem side down, and cook until cut surface is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip apples, reduce heat to low and spoon filling inside, mounding excess filling over cavity; top with reserved apple caps. Add maple syrup and 1/3 cup of cider to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven, and bake until skewer inserted into apples meets little resistance, 35 to 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with maple syrup mixture in skillet.

4. Transfer apples to serving platter. Stir remaining 2 tablespoons cider into sauce in skillet as necessary to adjust consistency. Pour sauce over apples and serve.