Baked Apple with Vanilla & Thyme

Baked Apple with Vanilla & Thyme

Here in New Zealand we are at the end of the apple harvest with a few lone late stragglers stubbornly clinging to the branches even though the leaves have bailed for the year. We’re chomping through cold storage apples so is good that some varieties keep well. From the Gisborne Farmers Market this week we have a mixed bag of Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smiths. Stay tuned to see how they fare. Meanwhile here is a recipe I prepared during the apple harvest a few seasons past.
Baked apple is great for apples that have lurked too long in the vegetable drawer that are too good for the compost but not crisp enough to eat raw. Using a mix of cooking and dessert apples will result in lovely chunks of fruit nestled amongst fluffy puree. Alternatively, use all one variety – Sunrise will bake down to a fragrant soft pulp while Royal Galas retain their shape. I have made a Vanilla & Thyme Syrup, which adds a very subtle hint of thyme, but maple, apple or golden syrup can be used instead. Try pears baked in ginger syrup – replace vanilla and thyme with a 3cm knob of fresh ginger, finely diced.

Vanilla & Thyme Syrup

3 cups water
2 cups sugar
zest of ½ lemon
1 vanilla bean
2 large springs of fresh thyme
Heat water and sugar gently, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Add lemon zest then turn up the heat and boil until reduced by half – about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape seeds into syrup. Strip leaves off thyme stalks then add the bean and thyme leaves to the mixture. Cover and set aside to infuse for at least 2 hours. Remove vanilla bean and discard. This recipe makes more syrup than required for the apples. Bottle and store in the fridge – the syrup will keep for about a month. Use as ice cream or milk-shake syrup, drizzle over fresh fruit or use in place of honey when making cooked muesli. Makes about 2 cups.

Baked Apple Slices

6 medium apples
¼ cup Vanilla & Thyme syrup
¼ cup water
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Peel, core and slice the apples into 1cm thick rings or cut into wedges. As the apples are prepared, immerse them in acidulated water. Rinse off then place in a dish large enough to hold the fruit in a single layer. Combine the syrup and water and then pour over the apples. Bake, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes. Turn or stir the apples half way through cooking. Serve hot apples with fluffy pancakes, or pile apple over vanilla ice cream and drizzle with extra syrup. Serves 4. 

Baked Apple with Vanilla & Thyme

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