Baked Apples Filled with Apricots and Figs
Baked apples stuffed with dried fruits are an alluring dessert, especially when sweet apple cider is used to plump the fruits. Honey makes a sparkling glaze for the apples. Of the many varieties available, wildflower honey has a flavor that best complements the dried fruits. Blueberry or raspberry honey works well, too. When choosing apricots, avoid the Turkish variety, as they are too sweet. California dried apricots, if available, are a good choice. Also look for fruits dried without the use of sulfur. Heap the filling high in each apple to create an attractive presentation.
For the filling:
- 16 dried apricots (see note above)
- 4 dried Calimyrna figs
- 4 pitted soft prunes
- 2 dried pear halves, each cut into 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 cup sweet apple cider
- 4 baking apples such as Rome Beauty, Fuji or Jonagold
- 2/3 cup thawed, frozen apple juice concentrate
- 1/3 cup honey (see note above)
To make the filling, in a heatproof bowl, combine the apricots, figs, prunes, pears, cranberries and raisins. In a small saucepan, bring the cider to a boil. Pour the hot liquid over the fruits. Let stand until the fruits have plumped, 30 to 60 minutes.
Preheat an oven to 350°F.
Using a sharp knife, cut a slice 1/2 inch thick off the stem end of each apple. Using a melon baller, scoop out and discard the core from each apple, being careful not to puncture the base of the apple. Then, still using the melon baller, carve out the flesh to leave a shell 1/2 inch thick. Discard the flesh or reserve for another use. Stand the apples in a baking dish just large enough to hold them upright.
Drain the plumped fruits in a sieve held over the baking dish. Spoon the fruits into the apple cavities, dividing them evenly and heaping them high. Cut out four 5-inch square pieces of aluminum foil and tent a piece over the stuffing in each apple. Bake the apples until a knife pierces the bottom with only slight resistance but the sides retain their shape, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift off the foil.
When the apples are cool enough to handle, after about 20 minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a serving platter. Spoon back in place any of the fruit stuffing that fell off. Discard the liquid remaining in the dish.
While the apples are cooling, in a saucepan, combine the apple juice concentrate and the honey. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is syrupy and reduced by about one-third, about 8 minutes. Spoon the hot glaze over the stuffing and apples until it pools in the bottom of the platter. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).