Food You Can Eat: Claire Saffitz’s Braised and Brûléed Apples with Ice Cream

A braised and bruléed apple a day keeps the doctor on your speed-dial

Just a little casual, light dessert...

Sometimes the Kitchen Gods smile benevolently upon you, not often enough, but sometimes. That recently happened to me, during the Polar Vortex/Arctic Blast/“Ha HA Global Warming Is A MYTH” (cf many, many online media commenting sections) earlier this month. I made a deal with Better Half. If he would agree to walk the Faithful Hound (who loves nothing more than sub-zero temps) for an entire day I would make baked apples. But not just any. I would make these, because I had all the ingredients at hand. This is where the Kitchen Gods come in. This is an old recipe I had stashed away from Bon Appétit, and it’s by Claire Saffitz. 


(I halved this recipe or more like a third but this is the original, which theoretically serves 8. Not in my house it doesn’t.)

4 cups unfiltered apple cider

[I used high-end apple juice, it was fine, I had it left over from my colonoscopy prep liquid diet stash]

¾ cup pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Pinch of kosher salt

4 large firm baking apples, halved, cored with a melon baller 

[BH had found some Golden Delicious apples somewhere, probably the Whole Foods and they were $13 a piece. I was saving them to make a galette but I don’t make my own dough and I had no store-bought. This was my solution. Also, I have a melon baller, they’re really handy, but you can just use a sharp knife to cut the cores away.]

¼ cup heavy cream

1 cup sugar

2 pints vanilla ice cream 

[Counter-intuitive: When it’s subzero outside with the windchill but when it’s cozy in your Casa Encantada this isn’t so strange. You can also serve these with whipped cream, or better yet (as I did the first time I made them) whipped cream with a little Cointreau mixed in.]

Candied or unsalted, roasted nuts (for serving) 

[And of course I had these, because I thought in the run-up to Christmas I’d make an alcoholic English fruitcake, m-m-m-moist, but I didn’t.]

How to:

Step 1

Bring apple cider, maple syrup, butter, vinegar, and salt to a simmer in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-low heat, stirring to melt butter. Add apples to pot in a single layer (you might need to cook in batches depending on the size of your pot) and return liquid to a very gentle simmer. Cook, turning apples halfway through, until a skewer (or the tip of a small knife) slides easily through flesh but apples stay intact, 20–25 minutes; set aside.

Step 2

Remove apples from pot with a slotted spoon and place, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet; set aside. Bring liquid in pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until reduced to a thick caramel with bubbles that slowly expand and then pop, 15–20 minutes. Add cream and stir until sauce is smooth. Reduce heat to low and keep sauce warm in pot while you brûlée the caramel apples.

Step 3

Sprinkle cut sides of reserved apples with sugar and caramelize with kitchen torch (alternatively, you can brûlée them under the broiler, about 3 minutes). [I have a kitchen torch and I love it, but you might not.]

Step 4
To serve, scoop ice cream into bowls; place an apple half, brûléed side up, in each. Drizzle with warm caramel sauce and top with some nuts.
Step 5
Do Ahead: Apples can be braised 1 day ahead. Let cool in liquid, then cover and chill. Reheat over low before continuing.



    • As I get older and approach/embrace my senescence I am personally offended by extreme temperatures, whether they be 10 degree days or 100 degree days. I shouldn’t complain, I can’t remember the last time I saw any snow. Nonetheless, when we had that deep freeze, you must remember it, I decided to fight back with these apples. While I was making these I thought of the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy and Toto and the Scarecrow are attacked by the pissed off apple trees.

  1. The beauty of this recipe is that in the fall you’re likely have the apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and the apples themselves lying around as the entire nation seems to go into an autumnal apple frenzy. That photo was snagged from the Bon Appétit website so the beauty of this recipe might not reveal itself when you present it, it certainly has eluded me, but that’s the Platonic ideal.

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