Maple syrup and dates add a healthful spin to baked apples

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – The autumnal aroma filling your kitchen as this dessert bakes will have you swooning well before its time to dig in.

It’s an anticipation that makes eating it even better, priming you for the reward of digging your spoon through the softened peel of the whole apple to arrive at its tender inside, scooping bits of spiced, sweetened walnuts and maple-kissed juices along with it. This recipe offers that supreme, homestyle enticement in a more healthful way to boot, without much added sugar at all.

That’s because a minimal amount of maple syrup is drizzled on top, and instead of the refined sugar usually used to sweeten the nutty stuffing, finely chopped dates do the job. With cooking, the dried fruit melds in with the walnuts, so you don’t even realise it’s there – you just get its sweet essence punctuated with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

This new spin on an old-fashioned dessert delivers so much for all its simplicity – pleasure, economy and nutrition – a welcome reminder of the many benefits that home cooking delivers.

WALNUT AND DATE-STUFFED BAKED APPLES

Active time: 25 minutes | Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Four servings

This new spin on the homey, old-fashioned dessert has much less added sugar than the traditional version, with just a little maple syrup drizzled on top, and a walnut filling sweetened with finely chopped dates. The dried fruit melds in seamlessly with cooking so you don’t even realise it’s there – you just get its sweet essence punctuated with the aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

STORAGE NOTES: Leftover baked apples can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.

Walnut and date-stuffed baked apples. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup (two ounces) walnut pieces

Four large cooking apples (about two pounds total), such as Rome, Cortland, Gala or Braeburn

Three tablespoons finely chopped pitted dates

Four tablespoons maple syrup, divided

One teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

One pinch kosher salt

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

DIRECTIONS

Position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Place the walnuts on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and darken slightly, about five minutes.

Transfer the nuts to a cutting board, let cool, then finely chop.

Core the apples, leaving their bottoms intact. (Use a melon baller to scoop out the core, but not all the way through.)

Place the apples upright into a rimmed baking dish just wide enough for the apples to snugly fit, such as an eight-by-eight-inch pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the walnuts, dates, two tablespoons maple syrup, the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the apple juice with the remaining two tablespoons maple syrup.

Stuff the center of each apple with the walnut-date mixture, then pour the apple juice around the apples.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until the apples are tender.

Serve hot or cold, drizzled with the pan juices.

Nutrition

Calories: 292; Total Fat: 9g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 41mg; Carbohydrates: 52g; Dietary Fibre: 7g; Sugar: 41g; Protein: 3g.