- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Cook an apple, and you get a magical aroma: It stirs a yearning for simple pleasures and whets the appetite for a delicious treat. Apples are perfect when cooking for two. There are no problems with portion control — each piece of fruit is a serving.

Baking is a simple way to bring the pleasure of this fruit to the table. Your best bets for baked apples include Rome Beauty, a big, round fruit; Russet, which has a rust-tinged green skin; Haralson, a regional Midwestern apple; and Esopus Spitzenburg, an old Northeastern variety.

Stewing apples for applesauce is one of my favorite preparations. Sure, you can buy packaged applesauce with a number of flavorings, but none has the thick, chunky consistency or natural sweetness of homemade. Homemade applesauce is delicious plain or as a topping for biscuits, muffins and waffles. Among the apples suitable for sauce are Braeburn, Gala, Jonagold and my pick, Pink Lady, which is intensely sweet.

Selecting apples for a baked product such as bread or pie is a little more challenging. You want an apple with an assertive flavor and a texture that is firm enough to not turn to pulp. However, the apple slices should cook to fork tenderness. Nothing is worse than biting into a muffin or apple pie and feeling chewy or crunchy fruit.



Juicy and sweet-tart Northern Spy is a classic pie apple, but it is often hard to find. Both Idared and Jonagold are excellent. Although some people recommend Granny Smith, it’s too crisp and tart for my taste.

The muffin recipe that follows is marvelous because it starts with freshly cooked applesauce. Turn on the coffee maker as soon as you put the muffins in the oven because the scent of cooking apples is sure to inspire a coffee break.

As an aside, you can double the accompanying applesauce recipe and use the remainder as a spread for the muffins.

Applesauce-maple-walnut muffins

1/2 cup applesauce (recipe follows)

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Dash of salt

1/3 cup maple sugar (see note)

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Prepare applesauce and cool to room temperature.

Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and maple sugar together in a large bowl. Combine egg, applesauce and melted butter in a small bowl. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir just to combine. Do not beat. Stir in walnuts. Drop the batter into a greased muffin tin, filling 3/4 full to form 7 muffins. Bake in 400-degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven. Set aside 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool. Makes 7 muffins.

Note: Maple sugar is available at farmers markets, natural-food supermarkets and gourmet food stores. You can substitute light brown sugar.

APPLESAUCE

1 large apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine apple, sugar, cinnamon and cup water in a small pot. Cover; cook over medium heat until the apple is soft, about 10 minutes. If the sauce seems watery, uncover the pot and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Mash the apple until pulpy, using the back of a fork. Makes about cup sauce.

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