When I was growing up, baked apples were one of those last-minute emergency desserts in our household. They were never hugely fêted. They were usually made quickly as unexpected guests were ushered into the living room; a child nudged to follow with a jar of hurriedly found olives as my mum stood in the kitchen, lopping tops off cooking apples and spreading them with a mix of butter, brown sugar and raisins before firing them into the oven and joining the room.
The baked apples never got much attention, either during the cooking (sometimes they exploded; sometimes their skins burnt) or during the eating, but they filled the house with a rich, intoxicatingly autumnal scent and they always tasted lovely; lovelier than I ever gave them credit for at the time. With a long pour of cold, thick, unwhipped cream, some kind of alchemy came over their fluffy, almost cake-like cooked flesh, and it made for the most perfect dessert.
Thinking of these baked apples from times gone by, I picked up some apples in Neal’s Yard Dairy the other day with the idea of baking them and serving with some thick Guernsey cream. I’m not sure of the variety, they were somewhere between a russet and a Cox’s Pippin [I did find an incredible tool for determining the variety but it was asking me to input a lot of criteria so ‘russety apples’ will have to do] but I knew by the look of them – rough, leathery skin; dense, compact form – that they would bake up beautifully.
I was thinking of making a cinnamon ice cream to serve alongside them when it suddenly occurred to me that I could combine the two ideas and make a baked apple ice cream; thus putting the baked apples centre stage where they deserved to be all along.
For the ice cream recipe, I decided to use Nigella Lawson’s no-churn recipe (which is usually made with espresso powder and coffee liqueur) instead of making a custard based ice cream, and then just modified the flavours by adding different ingredients to the base.
I baked the apples in just a little water till soft, then spooned off the flesh and whipped it with double cream, condensed milk, rum and cinnamon to make the most heavenly concoction.
After being frozen overnight, the ice cream was everything you’d hope for in a scoop; rich, creamy and easy to serve straight from the freezer thanks to the generous splash of rum in the mixture. It would be lovely with crumbles, cakes or baked fruit but it would also make a great autumnal dessert just as it is.
BAKED APPLE SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM
Unlike many no-churn ice creams, Nigella’s base recipe gives a really soft, non-icy finish. Because you can serve it straight from the freezer, it’s a great option for serving at dinner parties or family meals when you have enough on your mind without having to remember to get the ice cream out of the freezer mid-way through the meal.
This baked apple version has a lovely autumnal flavour and is extremely easy to make – you just need to remember to start it the night before (or at least eight hours) before you want to have it.
Makes 12 servings
2 medium russet, cox’s pippin or other hardy looking variety of apple (or 3 small ones)
350g sweetened condensed milk
600ml double or heavy cream
3 tablespoons of rum
3.5 level teaspoons of cinnamon (or 4 if you love cinnamon), plus extra to swirl
Preheat your oven to 200°c. Place the apples in a baking dish with half an inch of water around their base. Cover loosely with a scrunched piece of parchment then bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the skins have started to split and the apple flesh is soft and fluffy. Leave to cool, then spoon off the flesh – you will need four densely packed tablespoons of cooked apple with no bits of core or seeds. Mash it lightly with a fork. Tip the condensed milk into a very large bowl and add the cooked apple. Whip with electric beaters. Add the rum and continue to whip. Add the cream and the cinnamon and whip until the mixture is thick and has body, with the beaters just starting to leave a trail in the mix. You don’t want to over-whip it as it will start to become buttery. Spoon the mixture into a loaf tin, swirl in a pinch of cinnamon on a knife blade, and cover it tightly with cling-film so that it doesn’t get that spooky freezer flavour. Freeze overnight or for at least eight hours. It should be ready to eat straight from the freezer but if your freezer is especially cold it might need a couple of minutes to come up to serving temperature.
Note: Nigella’s recipe is a good basis for making lots of quick ice creams. You can try different versions by using different spirits and different spices or key flavours. Ie, by replacing her espresso powder and coffee liqueur with vanilla and whiskey and then adding a blackberry purée swirl; or trying an amaretto and pear version etc. Let me know if you try any other ideas!