Fall is quickly approaching, which means that we’re soon going to be living, once again, in a pumpkin spice flavored world. Everyone raves about those gourd-flavored lattes and quick breads, but there is one fall fruit that seems to have lost a little of its luster in our now pumpkin-dominated landscape: the humble apple. Maybe it’s because of all those mealy supermarket Red Delicious you were forced to eat as a kid, but we’ve left behind the apple as fall’s favorite fruit.
In doing that, we’ve really, really screwed up. Apples are much more complicated and diverse than a stupid old pumpkin, especially when you start thinking outside of the box. Even if you really suck at baking, you can still make apple desserts that will impress the pickiest of eaters. Leave those baking pans and pot holders behind, and get prepared for more deliciousness than you ever thought could come out of a microwave.
You probably haven’t tucked into a big bowl of applesauce since grade school, but that only means that you’re missing out. A bowl of applesauce is a great dessert when you’ve got a little bit of a sweet tooth but aren’t interested in entering an old-fashioned carb coma. Whether you simmer it on the stove (or crock pot) for hours or whip up a quick batch in the microwave, applesauce is a healthy dessert that is also perfectly nostalgic.
Microwave Baked Apples
This might technically be cheating, but since we’re using a microwave and not a conventional oven, who cares. Baked apples are a delicious fall dessert, even more so when you don’t have to worry about heating up your oven. Simply core an apple, stuff with your favorite toppings (like a knob of butter and a plug of brown sugar), and pop in the microwave for a few minutes. By the time you hear the “ding!” you’ll have a homemade dessert in a buttery spiced syrup that even Martha Stewart couldn’t snub.
For whatever reason, we generally only make caramel apples around Halloween, and that is a travesty. A bowl of homemade caramel will keep in the refrigerator for at least a few weeks, and it’s so much better than those little tubs of caramel dip you find in the produce aisle. A basic slow-cooker caramel is easy to make, and you can gild your lily with any toppings you like — crushed Oreos and sprinkles if you’re feeling naughty, or just plain old-fashioned chopped peanuts will be just fine.
When only something crunchy will do and the cabinets are looking bare, apple chips can satisfy your craving. You can use a low oven if you like, but you can easily make apple chips in a dehydrator or the microwave if you’re seriously against the concept of baking. You can flavor your apple chips any way you like — try brushing with a little salted caramel or mixing brown sugar and cinnamon — and whip up a quick batch for those moments when baking a cake is just about as likely for you as winning the lottery.
No-bake cheesecake is really great in that it combines the awesomeness of cake, pie, and not having to bake into one convenient and delicious dessert-shaped package. Instead of picking up that gross can of apple pie filling at the supermarket, snag some fresh apples from the farmer’s market and make a quick and rich take on caramel apples. The classic combo of cinnamon and sugar is always a great choice, but you could also make your no-bake cheesecake at least a little more sophisticated by adding in clove, toasted cardamom, and other baking spice. No one’s going to notice your store-bought pie crust when they’re dazzled by your ability to layer flavors so delicately.
Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor. She has an equally deep love of apples and hatred of baking. Find her on Twitter @aemccarthy.
Photo: Jennuine Captures Photography, CC-BY-NC-ND