Slow-Baked Apple Chunks with Pecans

Strands of my hair slashed like whips against my cheeks and my fingers were numb as I hauled kitchen tools, pans, cooking ingredients, a basket of farm-fresh produce and little vases of fresh herbs into a large tent set up on the grounds of the historic schoolhouse in Mentor, Minnesota on Friday afternoon. When I was invited to do a cooking demonstration at SistersSojourn, I visualized an early fall day of sunshine, crisp air and leaves just beginning to glimmer with autumn colors.

On the first day of the event, a gloomy sky, a cool temperature and bitter wind did not dampen my enthusiasm. Although my cooking tent was closed on three sides, the inside air was cool. Women wrapped in blankets, some wearing mittens and winter jackets, kept right on smiling as they watched me cook. We had a great time. I turned on the heater in my car for my drive back to Bemidji. I was chilled to the bone.

Saturday morning I was watching a couple of my grandchildren play soccer in Fargo. Once again, strands of my hair slashed like whips against my cheeks. More wind. Cold wind. I came prepared, though. Long undies, wool sweater, wool socks, my new wool mittens purchased from an artist at SistersSojourn in Mentor on Friday — lots of layers. After 2 1/2 hours at the soccer fields, I was chilled to the bone. But, what fun to watch my four-year-old grandson run around a short soccer field, focused on getting his foot to the ball. How exciting to watch my long-legged, 10-year-old granddaughter kick the soccer ball into the net to score.

On this wet, gloomy, cool day in Bemidji, I am tucked inside my cozy abode with a dish of warm and sweet Slow-Baked Apple Chunks sending the fragrance of fall through every room.

Apple chunks bake in apple juice or cider at a low oven temperature for an hour or more, depending on how tender you like the apples. Flavored with cinnamon and coriander, the warm apples, baked with pecan halves, make a simple and sensational topping for Honey Honey Cake. The cake recipe is in my column this week. Click here to get right to the recipe for Honey Honey Cake.

I smile as I think of the wonderful weekend I’ve had. I’m thankful to be warm and snug. I’m happy it’s apple season.

Slow-Baked Apple Chunks with Pecans

  • 2 tart apples (preferably organic)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup pecan halves
  • Apple juice
  • Creme Fraiche or sweetened whipped cream and whole cinnamon sticks, for serving

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Core each apple. Cut to make 4 thick slices. Cut each slice in half to make 8 chunks. Arrange apple chunks in a single layer in a buttered, shallow glass baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mix brown sugar, coriander and cinnamon together. Add butter. Use the same fork or your clean fingers to blend the butter into the brown sugar mixture. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples in the baking dish. Top with pecan halves.

Pour apple juice into baking dish to  a depth of 1/2 inch. Bake in preheated 250-degree oven for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally with the juice in the dish, until they are cooked to the tenderness you prefer.

Best served fresh from the oven with milk or cream, Honey Honey Cake or premium vanilla ice cream. Slow-Baked Apple Chunks with Pecans is a delectable topping for Honey Honey Cake. Dollop with creme fraiche and serve with a cinnamon stick. Can be stored, covered, in refrigerator and reheated in oven or microwave at serving time. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

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