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Baked Apples with Blue Cheese, Black Pepper and Honey

This new spin on classic baked apples blurs the line between sweet and savory. Piquant blue cheese is the star here; fragrant spices and sweet honey play supporting roles. The apples are filled after baking and their warmth brings together all of the robust sweet-salty flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, preferably Cortland or pippin
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 oz. blue cheese
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

Cut a 2-inch-wide cone-shaped section from the stem end of each apple. Using a melon baller, scoop out the core, working your way almost to the bottom. Using a paring knife, score around the circumference of the lower third of each apple to prevent it from bursting during baking.

Place the apples in an 8-inch square baking dish. Drizzle the 1/2 cup honey and squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the apples. Pour the cider over and around the apples. Place the cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks in the baking dish. Bake the apples until a paring knife easily slips into the centers, 50 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, crumble the blue cheese and measure 1/2 cup lightly packed; reserve the rest for garnish. In a small bowl, mash together the cheese, the 1 Tbs. honey, the 1 tsp. pepper and the cream. Remove the apples from the oven and fill the center of each with the blue cheese mixture, dividing it evenly. Let the apples cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish the apples with a few bits of the reserved crumbled blue cheese and a sprinkle of pepper. Transfer the apples to individual bowls, drizzle with some of the pan juices and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Desserts, by Raquel Pelzel (Oxmoor House, 2008).