It seems to me that we have a failure of imagination when it comes to oven temperatures and apples. We always bake them. It’s like our temperature dial is locked between 350-375F. What’s up with that?
I know what’s up with that. It’s mostly dough or crumble topping. We put our apples in pies, and crisps, and dumplings, and strudels, and turnovers, and unless we want black and incinerated edges, we had best bow to the characteristics of dough and stick with those mildly hot baking temperatures.
Now, I like dough as much as the next person (maybe more than the next person), but today I’m going to say, “break out! Take your apples out of their floury, buttery, oaty sheaths!” Because if you do, then you can roast them! Crank up the knob on the oven and lash that fruit with intense heat.
You’ll find that this fast (faster, at any rate) and furious, let ‘er rip, method of cooking still gives you apples that have the sweet, tender innards of baked apples. But the outside, well the outside is where the magic happens. They become mahogany, all glistening and browned with a pleasant hint of burnt caramel to edge the rich sweetness with a thin rim of sophistication.
I first decided to roast some apples because I wanted an excuse to make ginger mousse. Which is another really good idea. Really really good. As I was thumbing through an issue of Food & Wine magazine on one of our recent airplane rides, a recipe for pistachio meringues with ginger-yogurt mousse caught my eye. My eye communicated with my brain and my brain thought, ‘pistachio meringue? Meh. Ginger mousse? Oooooh. What can I put that on? Maybe apples? Maybe roasted apples? Why not?’ I decided to give it a try.
The apple roasting process is remarkably easy, making this a fun, fast dessert for a crowd or unexpected visitors who may drop by. All you do is halve and core your apples, drizzle them with a little melted butter and a pinch of dark brown sugar and then shove them into the oven.
Peek in every so often to check on them, and use a big spoon to scoop up the juices they are leeching and pour it back all over them. This ensures that you’ll get the caramelized outside that makes the apples so delicious. Once they’re tender, pull them out of the oven and let them cool, at least enough so that you don’t scorch your tongue.
The spicy ginger mousse puts the apples over the top. It is the perfect complement, creamy against juicy, light and airy against dark and burnished. I made a small amount of ginger flavored simple syrup to spike whipped cream with its pungency. And, to stabilize the whipped cream while also adding just the mildest tangy cream cheese flavor, I folded in some mascarpone.
Then we mounded this silken mousse in billowing clouds atop our waiting little apple halves. Finally, in a nod to one of my favorite traditional desserts – tilslørte bondepiker – I scattered cinnamon-laced toasted breadcrumbs all over the top. And well, who the heck needs pie?! Not me, let me tell you. Autumn bliss!
I just love it when I serve something to a friend, and after taking their first bite they look up with a desparately hopeful look in their eyes and ask, “this is on your site, right?’ My answer is almost always, “um, well, not yet. But it can be.” And here it is!
Roasted Apples with Ginger Mousse and Cinnamon Breadcrumbs (Serves 8 )
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
- ½ vanilla bean
- 8 firm cooking apples (like gala, granny smith, or pink lady), cut in half and cores removed
- 2 Tbs. butter, melted
- 1 Tbs. dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbs. butter
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- ½ cup mascarpone
- First, make a ginger simple syrup by combining the sugar, water, and slices of ginger in a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half, scrape the insides into the pan, then add the pod. Turn the heat under the pan to high. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it boils, remove it from the heat. Set aside for 30 minutes to infuse. After 30 minutes, strain the ginger and vanilla bean out of the syrup. Set the syrup aside again.
- Preheat your oven to 425F. Put the apple halves into a large baking dish. Drizzle them with the melted butter, then sprinkle them with the brown sugar. Toss them to get them lightly coated, then turn them to make sure they all have the cut side facing up. Put the pan into the oven and roast until the apples are totally soft, around 40 minutes. While they are roasting, check them every 10-15 minutes, and use a spoon to scoop up the juices that are accumulating in the pan and drizzle the juices all over the apples.
- Once the apples are cooked, take them out of the oven and set the pan on a cooling rack to cool for just a bit.
- While the apples are roasting, make the cinnamon breadcrumbs. Over medium heat, heat 1 Tbs. butter in a frying pan until melted. Stir in the breadcrumbs and the cinnamon, and cook, stirring, until the breadcrumbs are toasted, around 5-10 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
- When you’re ready to serve, make the ginger mousse by whipping the heavy cream, the ginger syrup (from step 1) and the mascarpone together until stiff peaks form. Put two apple halves on each plate, scoop a large spoonful of the ginger mousse on top, then sprinkle with a spoonful of cinnamon breadcrumbs. Serve.