Guess what I had for dessert the other night? No, not ice cream.
That’s a humdrum choice because it’s always available. Not a cake either.
When you live alone, it would take you a month to eat a cake. And I can’t make a pie to save my soul, even though a good lemon meringue pie is my favorite. So, with a craving for something sweet, I went fishing back into memories of my childhood and came up with the idea of a baked apple, a standby dessert when I was growing up.
Perhaps I should explain that my mother had the soul of a hospital dietician. She devised all our end-of-the meal treats based more on how healthy they were, rather than on their taste appeal.
We had baked apples, prune whips, cut up fruit and an occasional floating island -- a French dessert that's a meringue in a pool of custard sauce. But of all those nostalgic choices, the baked apple seemed the tastiest as well as the simplest to make.
I took a big red apple and cored it.
Into the hole, I pressed brown sugar and raisins. Then, after checking in with "The Joy of Cooking," I put the apple in a pan and surrounded it with an inch or so of water. Turned the oven on to 375 degrees and sat down prepared to baste my creation until it grew soft.
When it was done, it tasted delicious.
Maybe you just have to wait 70 years to revisit childhood treats. Not sure I’ve ever had a baked apple since I left home. I have a feeling my children would have raised a row if I'd made it for their dessert.
My mother had the excuse of World War II rationing for serving margarine instead of butter and presenting liver as our main course at too many dinners.
When we whined about it, she explained you didn’t need ration point to buy liver. We couldn’t argue with that.
My children, as I remember, were raised on hamburgers and popsicles and whatever casseroles I could manage to make after I’d finished a day at work. Oh yes, and lots of salads made from California’s bounty. I am happy to report the children grew up healthy without ever once eating liver.
But some good recipes got lost over the years.
I remember my husband asking if I could make Brown Betty. I think I tried, but it was trickier than I thought and when I finally achieved one, it didn’t seem worth the effort.
My mother-in-law was also an epic pie baker, and many are the crusts I rolled out salted with my tears when they tore.
As I said earlier, I’m not much of a pie baker. And that's the beauty of a baked apple -- any fool can make it. It would take a genius to mess it up.
And you can make one apple if you live alone, or two or three or twenty if you so desire. If you’re trying to gain weight, you can put a dollop of ice cream atop it.
A baked apple is an essentially American treat.
I’m sure the French would scorn it, but a nation that can make delicious croissants and flaky pastries doesn’t need this easy recipe.
However, I do and maybe you do, too.