This is my first Halloween in Pittsburgh since college. I’m excited. I’m dressing up as Carmen Sandiego, if I can just find the right red hat.

I’m also going to a friend’s for dinner and the handing-out of candy to neighborhood children. Pretty psyched for that, especially because it’s on me to bring dessert.

At the table: a vegan, a picky eater, gluten-free me (and a few omnivores). Instantly, baked apples came to mind. I love baked apples not just because they’re gluten-free, but because you can make them as decadent or as healthy as you want, you can make one or ten, they’re already portioned out, and they taste like fall.

Such an easy recipe, so often overlooked.

The most important part to a good baked apple is — shockingly — a good apple. Apples that eat well raw don’t necessarily eat well baked, so pay attention to the apples you plan to use.

Midwest Living recommends 12 different apples for cooking, including Gala, Cortland, Winesap, Honey Crisp, and Granny Smith.  Saveur put a variety of apples to the test, with Cortlands and Empires coming out the best — but this may just be because fresher apples bake better (regardless of variety).

Once you have your apples, the rest is fairly simple:

  1. Wash apples
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F
  3. If the apples won’t stand up in a glass baking dish, slice a tiny bit off the bottom.
  4. Core apples, but not all the way. Leave at least 1/2 inch intact at the base of the apple. This takes a long, thin, sharp knife and a a little practice. Some people also like to take off a bit of extra skin around the core, others like to cut a few vents into the apple skin.
  5. Fill the core with your favorite mixture (see below) and cover apples with foil.
  6. Bake for about an hour.
  7. Eat, maybe with some vanilla ice cream.

Popular baked apple fillings include raisins, walnuts, cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice, brown sugar, maple syrup, and honey — but you can get as crazy as you want.

Some good starting recipes are Paula Deen‘s, Book of Joe‘s, the Farmer’s Almanac‘s, and of course the ones from Saveur.

Do you make baked apples often? What are your favorite apples/ingredients?