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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Balsamic Baked Apples

I love balsamic with cherries, and balsamic with strawberries, so why not apples? This is a sort of deconstructed apple pie that gives the tartness of apples a little punch with some acidic, earthy yet sweet balsamic vinegar.

This all came about because I am participating in Taste and Create a wonderful food blogger exchange hosted by For the Love of Food. It is something like the food blogger equivalent of having someone over to your house. Bloggers are paired and each partner is tasked with selecting and making a recipe from the other person's blog. This time around I was paired with Bombay Foodie. Bombay Foodie is a relatively new blog, just got started in February of this year, but already plenty of tasty ideas. Her recipe for Balsamic Apples caught my eye.



Bombay Foodie describes the process like this:

"I just spread the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, then sprinkled some demarara sugar [raw cane sugar]. Poured in two large slugs of balsamic vinegar to coat everything, and covered the baking sheet with a foil to stop the fruit burning. I baked it in a 200C [about 400F] oven for 10 minutes, then removed the foil and sprinkled some walnuts. Baked the apples for another five minutes or so, this time without the foil, until the juice has reduced to a thick syrup. They were delicious warm and straight out of the oven."

In keeping with the idea of a recipe exchange, I tried to follow the letter and the spirit of the instructions. The directions are really written for someone who likes to free-wheel a bit in the kitchen, as there are no indications of the proportion of apples to sugar to balsamic. I used a single Granny Smith apple. I cut it into what I consider standard pie size, which is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices, and then each slice was cut into thirds to produce little hunks. I had no walnuts (which I am sure are perfect in this) so I used the slivered almonds I had on hand.

I used between 2 tsp and 1 Tbsp of sugar. As the recipe said, I gave it two "glugs" of balsamic, which is a wonderful onomatopoetic cooking term for the amount that comes out of a bottle before the flow stalls and the bottle seems to gulp or "glug" for air. It isn't really that much, something like a hearty splash. Because I was using only one apple, I gave it two hearty splashes and that seemed enough to both coat all the pieces and leave a bit in the bottom to form the syrup.

As written, I first sprinkled with cane sugar and then coated with balsamic, but I found myself thinking that perhaps it would have been a good idea to use the balsamic first, turn the pieces to coat, and then sprinkle evenly with sugar. With I was turning to coat in balsamic, I had the sense that the sugar was running off the slices and collecting in the pan. At any rate, it will become tasty syrup in the end.

I imagine my apple slices were larger than Bombay Foodie's because I had to bake mine for at least 25 minutes in the 400 degree (F) oven, and even then I would say the apples were more al dente than the glorious mushy softness of pie. Based on the original description, I also believe I must not have added enough balsamic, because I didn't have any syrup left in the bottom at the end: the apples had soaked it all up. It gave some of the apples a really interesting rich brown color on the side of the apple that had been soaking up the juice.

Because Bombay Foodie describes this as a sort of apple pie without the pie crust, I decided I might use up some pita I had on hand making cinnamon sugar pita wedges to serve with the apple filling. I really liked the apple filling with the pita wedges, probably because the apple pies of my childhood all contained cinnamon, but the original description didn't call for any spices. That little kick of cinnamon from the wedges really made it for me, and I liked how it interacted with the balsamic, making it one tasting note among several rather than a single dominant note.

This is an interesting twist on a classic dessert and a great time saver for those of you who don't like making pie crust. If I made it again, I would slice the apples thinner, use more balsamic, and add a dollop of butter and cinnamon to the mix.

9 comments:

Simran said...

You are right. I can never follow a recipe exactly, so its hard for me to write precise instructions. I think my recipes are more like guidelines for freewheeling cooks.

And thanks for the photograph. I didn't picture mine, and yours looks perfect.

Erin said...

Simran,

Guidelines for free wheelers is also always fun. And the apples were both healthy and tasty. I found myself picking a nubbin up to snack on it each time I passed the pan. This is, of course, dangerous business.

Glad you liked the photo!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Wow, apples and balsamic vinegar sounds interesting. I wouldn't have dreamed up the pairing, but I bet it's delicious.

Philip said...

Erin,

What a great post. I'd have never dreamed of pairing apples with balsamic vinegar.

Earlier this year when I was staying in Malibu, Ca. I discovered a recipe for a swiss chard apple pie in a cookbook from Provence. I thought this was an unusual pairing so I went searching online for more information which led me to a recipe at epicurious.com for Sweet Potatoes, Apples, and Braising Greens I used yams, granny smith apples, and kale, and the results were splendid.

Julie said...

You are always making my tummy grumble. I'm curious to see what Bombay Foodie made from your blog. Running off to check right now.

Also..tag you're it:
http://julieskitchen.vox.com/library/post/seven-random-things-about-julie.html

Laura said...

This sounds fabulous over ice cream. I am inspired. :)

Coffee & Vanilla said...

I was actually thinking today about trying balsamic vinegar with some fruits.... apples sounds like a good idea! :)

Margot

diva@theSugarBar said...

balsamic and strawberries are IT!
will definitely give this a try though. baked fruit is simple amazing too. anyway check out my blog, i've tagged you for an award. :) x

jj said...

Hmmm, never thought of pairing apples with balsamic vinegar, either but it sounds very intriguing, thanks!

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