An Apple A Day

You know that saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?”  Sadly, it could never apply to me.If I had apples every day, I’d be in a lot of trouble… simply because I wouldn’t just eat the fruit on its own — that would be too prosaic.  Nay, I’d have it in a cupcake or a pie or even a strudel if feeling indulgent.

You see, apples are so versatile.  The crisp gives bite while the tang adds a lovely dimension of flavour.  And talk about choices.  Living in Qatar, we get apples from every continent in which they grow.  Some are crunchier, others more tart, but all equally delightful — especially for baking.

It’s hard to explain.  But cut up a few apples, squeeze a lemon over them, sprinkle some ground cinnamon, then put the lot in a hot oven, and enchantment takes over.  The fruit transforms from ordinary to extraordinary.  Want a rapid dessert?  Follow the steps above, bake for half an hour and top with a scoop of ice-cream.  Voila.

Are there any secrets to working with apples?  You betcha.  They can get finicky, oxidising too quickly for even the speediest of chefs.  You could soak the fruit in salt water while peeling and coring, but I find this changes the texture of the flesh, leaving it mealy and quite grim.  I prefer to add lemon juice, which offers the twin benefit of preserving colour and, as aforementioned, producing a glorious post-baked sensation.

Sometimes a recipe calls for the apples to be cooked to the consistency of a mushy sauce.  The base for a French flan comes to mind.  Nothing tricky with that: just crank up the heat and the apples eventually disintegrate.  But what if you desire more crunch?  The answer lies, oddly, in boiling water; pour it over the prepared apple pieces and leave them to steep for about 10 minutes before draining.  This process helps the fruit retain some of its firmness while baking.

Apple Crisp

So, crave an apple dessert yet?  I sure hope so, as that might be ample impetus to have a go at an apple crisp, also known as apple crumble.  I’m repeating last month’s challenge.  Give me an hour of your time, and surprise yourself by dinner tonight.  The instructions are straightforward, the results sublime.

This dish is a year-round hit, which is perfect because apples are perennially available.  (Even though apples are harvested in the autumn, they’re kept fresh in cold storage at around 1 degrees Celsius; hence what’s available at the store might be many months old.)  Apple crisp is unfussy to say the least and requires no specialised gadget to make.  When strapped for time, I’ve even zapped the apples in the microwave before adding the topping (or crispy crunchy as my niece calls it) and browning them in the oven for 10 minutes.

Try this recipe, and prepare to become hooked on the many incarnations of baked, spiced apples.  If you’re like me, it won’t be too long before you start dreaming Tarte Tatin and Danish pastries.  Just remember a little self-restraint to keep the doctor at bay.