This is a Grandma-style dessert if there ever was one — and we really loved our grandmas (and their desserts). Of course, we’ve riffed on it a bit; instead of brown sugar and butter, we’ve gone vegan — and a bit virtuous — with coconut oil and maple syrup. A solid dousing of red wine and a handful of spices dress things up a bit, too. Served with the wine-y pan juices, a sprinkle of pecans (all the better if they’ve been toasted in ghee) and delicious cream (whipped or simply poured), Gram’s apples become a sophisticated, satisfying fall dessert. Or breakfast!
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Core the apples (we use a paring knife, but we’re told that a melon baller works, too) and place in a cast-iron pan or a walled baking pan. Put a teaspoon of coconut oil into the hollowed-out center of each apple and one into the pan. Tuck a few nut pieces, if using, into the center of each apple (as many as will fit), and drizzle the maple syrup into/over each apple. Add wine, water and a few star anise, cloves and peppercorns to the pan. Sprinkle cinnamon and sea salt over the apples and pop in the oven.
Every apple variety is different, so we’re not going to give exact baking times here…but what you’re looking for is an enticingly burst, semi-collapsed, browned apple that’s soft enough to cut with a spoon, but not mush. (This should take at least 40 minutes, unless your apples are quite small — in which case, it will take less!)
Serve with a generous sprinkle of toasted pecans, spoonfuls of the pan juices and, if you fancy, a dollop of whipped cream, cream or yogurt. If you want to keep it vegan, coconut milk would do just fine spooned around the bowl!