Here’s the thing about baked apples: They are kind of a terrible dessert. While certainly delicious, the homey, Jewish grandmother-approved confection lacks a certain gravitas needed to convince very full people to make room for a few bites of something more. They just can’t compete with a lineup of pies, cookies and cake.
But here’s the other thing about baked apples: They are incredible for breakfast. There, alongside a stack of pancakes, their cozy, wrinkly exterior and elemental sweetness taste right at home.
During Rosh Hashanah, when apples are at their seasonal and symbolic peaks, they are even better. Most importantly for hurried weekday mornings, or leisurely holiday ones, baked apples’ flavor intensifies overnight in the fridge and they are delicious cold or at room temperature, which makes them the perfect make-ahead breakfast or brunch dish.
I know there might be some die hard “baked apple at dessert” fans out there. And to you I say, “b’tai avon.” But for everyone else, I think it is time we make it a tradition to ring in Rosh Hashanah with a breakfast of baked apples.
In a nod to the morning meal, I filled my apples with a granola-based crumble. In addition to being breakfast appropriate, granola offers the chance to customize the dish. Simply buy, or make if you would rather, a granola that has all your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits already in it. The granola I used, , was lacking dried fruit, so I added in some raisins. If you start with a fruity granola, feel free to omit them. On top of the granola filling, I dotted my apples with butter and baked them until they collapsed into a beautiful little breakfast package.
You can serve baked apples with yogurt, because that’s what you are supposed to do at breakfast time. Or, serve them with ice cream because you’re an adult, and you can à la mode any time you want. Either way, it will get your morning, and the Jewish New Year, off to a very sweet start.
Granola Baked Apples
McIntosh apples are relatively quick cooking. If you sub in a different baking apple, the baking time might be longer.
6 medium McIntosh apples (or another good baking apple)
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ cup granola (homemade or store-bought)
2 tablespoons raisins, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Zest of ½ a lemon
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup boiling water
1) Preheat oven to 375˚ F. Using a sharp paring knife, cut out each apple stem. Use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out the cores, leaving the bottom ½ inch of the apples intact. The holes left in the apples should be about an inch wide.
2) Stir together the brown sugar, granola, raisins (if using), cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest and salt in a small bowl. Stuff each apple with the granola mixture, then place in a baking dish (any size that comfortably fits the apples is fine.) Top each apple with a few pieces of butter.
3) Pour the boiling water into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake, basting once or twice with juices from the dish, until the apples are tender but not mushy, 25-35 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving.
Leah Koenig is a contributing editor at the Forward and author of “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen,” Chronicle Books (2015).