10 October 2010

Happy Thanksgiving with Spiced Baked Apples with Maple Caramel Sauce

Spiced Baked Apples with Maple Caramel Sauce

To continue my celebration of wine for the Okanagan Wine Festival and now our Canadian Thanksgiving I will continue to take you on a little journey of cooking with wine in celebration of the harvest and my newly discovered passion for cuisine du terroir. Each day this week I have made wine the star of my dishes or at the very least cooked with glass in hand. Today I am starting with dessert!

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to revisit the Naramata Bench with Jennifer Cockrall-King when I attended the Food and Wine Writers Workshop. You can read all about our first day of adventure here. The second day started out with several workshops at the Wine Country Visitor Centre in Penticton. The first session was with Dianne Jacob a California-based writing coach, editor, and author of Will Write for Food. She took us through writing with the senses and other food writing fundamentals. You will also find Dianne on line at her blog of the same name. Lunch was courtesy of the Bench Market followed by a seminar by Liane Faulder, a food columnist at the Edmonton Journal and on CBC Radio Active. With some entertaining stories and anecdotes she spoke on how "Writing Can Change Your Life." It was a pleasure to spend the weekend with both of these ladies.

After a short break we were shuttled like celebrities to Naramata wine country. The Naramata Bench is a place of great beauty and personality. The town of Naramata is a sleepy little hollow with beautiful beaches, cafes and restaurants with a lavender farm and a spa thrown in for good measure. Twenty two boutique wineries at last count have sprouted up on this prime agricultural land either situated on the picturesque rolling hillsides of the Naramata Bench or perched at the edge of cliffs that fall perilously towards Okanagan Lake. It is truly a breathtaking setting!!!

Living in the Okanagan Valley for 15+ years I have many opportunities to tour a well healed cross-section of the over 100 wineries in this area. But to meet the actual wine makers who are so passionate about the land and what they do was a real honour!

Howling Bluff Estate Winery was our first stop along the route. This small family-owned estate winery is the culmination of winemaker Luke Smith’s life long passion for great wines. With his son Daniel, Luke has been producing award-winning wines since their first vintage in 2006. As it says on their web site, "Dedicated to producing small lots of fine wines, Luke and Daniel are building a legacy, a family winery for their future generations."

At Howling Bluff Estate Vineyards we had the opportunity to taste test their signature Pinot Noir and witness what the terroir does for a series of four vintages from year to year from 2006 - 2009. The difference in taste was remarkable and every nuance noted.  I have never had the opportunity to taste a series of wines from grapes that are grown on the same plot of land, the same soil, the same care and attention to detail...just a change in weather from year to year. Memorable! The deep cut formed by Three Mile Creek,  allows cool evening air to flow over the vines at night while the rolling hills leave no room for mild frost to pool and harm the grapes in the fall.  That is terrior at it's finest. We had the privilege of testing the very first opened bottle, along with the winemaker, of 2009 Pinot Noir which minutes earlier had won a prestigious award.

Our next stop was a vineyard walk and talk with Naramatian orchardist and winemaker Rob Van Westen and his wife Tammi. According to their web site Van Westen Vineyards has evolved from over 50 years of family tradition, cultivating the soils of The Naramata Bench and producing some of the best wines in British Columbia. We were treated to a lovely lunch of Raincoast Crisps, goat cheese and brie when only minutes ago I thought I couldn't hold another bite of food after lunch supplied by the Bench Market. The down-to-earth couple took us through the history of their family owned business while sampling some of their premium wines and their decision to plant vineyards. It really is a labour of love and a family affair!

Next we had a short visit with passionate winemaker Ross Hackworth at Nichol Vineyard. The vineyards are perfectly situated  on a pocket of land tucked against steep, heat-radiating red granite cliffs under the former Kettle Valley Railway and above the deep blue Okanagan Lake. This site offers the ideal place to grow grapes that produce wines with intense fruit and bright acidity and is home to Canada's first and oldest Syrah Vineyard. Since 1993 Nichol has been creating wines exclusively from grapes grown in Naramata.

With  expertise and emphasis on sustainable, cool climate viticulture practices, these winemakers continue to grow quality vinifera grapes and make premium wines for us to enjoy!!!! Long established as Canada's premier grape growing region, the wines of Naramata Bench share a fine pedigree of superb craftsmanship and heritage. Naramata Bench wine country is a must visit destination for wine connoisseurs and those seeking vistas of unparalleled beauty.

Then on to dinner at the historic Naramata Heritage Inn and Spa. Jennifer says, " Sommelier of the Year (and blogger and wine writer for various Canadian wine publications), Kurtis Kolt, looked after our dining and drinking. Our group was joined by Ian Sutherland, winemaker at Poplar Grove winery and Val Tait, viticulturist at Poplar Grove. Despite being in the middle of crush, winemaker at Therapy Vineyard Steven Latchford, even popped in to talk to the group."  Our outstanding meal began with "an out of control" heirloom tomato salad with bocconcini, crispy Cortland onions and sweet mammoth basil paired with a 2009 Lake Breeze Sauvignon Blanc. This was followed by an unexpectedly chilled organic sorrel, leek and fingerling potato soup with creme fraiche and Dungeness crab paired with a 2009 Kettle Valley Pinot Gris. The piece de resistance was the Thiessen Farms Muscovy duck breast with rock-oven roasted delicata squash, Italian prune plums and vanilla potato puree paired with a 2006 Poplar Grove Merlot. The finale was a Naramata pear and almond tart with vanilla bean ice cream paired with a 2009 Therapy Pink Freud. No "wine wankers" or "flabby wines" here!!!!

Since we are celebrating the end of the season I decided to continue my exploration of cooking with wine with this Spicy Baked Apple dish. Baked apples satisfy the craving for apple pie without the commitment. This recipe is based on one from Melissa Clark in an old issue of the New York Times. It  made wonderful yielding, tender apples with complex spices. Depending on the type of apples you decide to use please watch the cooking time or they will collapse. Mine were on the verge. As the finale to our Thanksgiving meal these baked apples were soul- and belly-warming in their flavour and simplicity. I topped each with wine-spiked whipped cream and a shard of Pecan Brittle. The spiced nut brittle adds a caramelized crunch reminiscent which will take you back to your childhood and remind you of candied apples. You will find all the recipes below.

To all my Canadian friends and family I hope you are having a joyous Thanksgiving celebration full of food and tender memories with your family and friends.

**Spiced Baked Apples with Maple Caramel Sauce**

4 teaspoons unsalted butter, more for pan
4 tart baking apples, like Royal Gala or Empire
1/3 cup plus 4 teaspoons maple syrup
4 teaspoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons chopped pecans
4 teaspoons chopped raisins
1/4 cup dry white wine or water
3 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 1/4-inch-thick slice fresh ginger root
1 2-inch piece cinnamon stick

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a small cake or baking pan. Use a vegetable peeler to peel a strip of skin from around stem of each apple. Use a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out core of each apple, leaving at least 1/4 inch at base.

Place 1 teaspoon butter and 1 teaspoon maple syrup into cavity of each apple. Mix together brown sugar, pecans and raisins, and stuff 1/4 of this mixture into each apple. Pour remaining maple syrup and the wine into bottom of pan, and add cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon.

Bake apples, basting with liquid in pan every 5 to 7 minutes, until tender yet not collapsed, 45 minutes to an hour (or less depending on the type of apple used). Serve warm or at room temperature, with French Vanilla Ice-Cream or Whipped Cream.

Yield: 4 servings.

**Pecan Brittle**

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the brittle, coarsely chop and toasted pecans.. Finely chop remaining nuts and set those aside for the apples.

The best way to approach brittle is not to rush and to keep the heat moderate. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a thick-bottomed medium sauce pan, stir sugar with water, honey and salt over low heat until dissolved. Increase heat to medium and let boil and bubble until light amber. Occasionally (and carefully) swirl pan to prevent any dark spots. This will take about 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately pour onto parchment. Tilt baking sheet to spread out as thin as possible and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Let cool completely. Break into shards.

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  1. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! the spiced baked apples is quite a show stopper of a dessert. I adore all recipes with cardamon, I am sure that I would like this one.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving dear Vall, this look beautiful and yummy, xx gloria

  3. Beautiful! And you go on the greatest and most interesting trips!

  4. Mmm this trip just keeps getting better the more you describe it! I met Dianne Jacob at BlogHer and thought she was an amazing speaker and just a great person all around.

    These spiced baked apples sound absolutely amazing. I give thanks that you posted this recipe!

  5. Duane J rocks it almost as much as you do! GREG

  6. Happy Thanksgiving, Val. I'm loving apple season this year and your dessert sounds wonderful, especially with that luscious sauce.

  7. Happy Thanksgiving weekend! Your apples look delicious. Ours are coming in. It is time to make a trip to the apple farm as I must try your recipe!

  8. Fantastic post...The workshop sounds so wonderful, and these recipes are glorious :)A few wines here I have not tried but sound great...And a Very Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  9. Nice recipes i am glad i stumbled upon this blog.

    I just started my own at
    so you might want to check it out.

    What do you think?

  10. I've so loved following this wine journey with you. My husband and I love, love, love the little Anderson Valley in California, home to great Pinos and amazing small wineries. Yes, plot to plot and year to year the flavor differences are surprising and delightful.

    As for the apples, I gave up on baked apples after just one try. Most of mine looked like gooey maggots. Ewwwww! Yours are much prettier, my dear.

  11. Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the North - I would be proud to serve this and I am all things apples these days. Especially baked.

  12. That's a gorgeous baked apple! I especially like the pecan brittle- stunning!

  13. That dessert is splendid! Seasonal and so mouthwatering.



  14. Thanks everuone. Depending on the type of apple you use you really need to be careful. A few more minutes in the oven and these would have been mush. I used Spartans.

  15. Happy Thanksgiving Val. What a stunning dessert.

    How fabulous to meet Diane. I subscribe to her blog and have read her book. She's fantastic.

  16. I just stopped by to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Your baked apples sound absolutely delicious and they are perfect for the season. I hope all is well and you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  17. Great recap Val. And thanks for including a photo of our lunch from The Bench. I forgot to do that. I'm just back from a work trip to Europe / Toronto and will be posting a load of photos from the workshop as soon as I can:) Looking forward to each and everyone of your posts. Happy Thanksgiving. That butternut squash lasagna looks to die for. Mmmmm.

  18. Happy T day. Love this post and the recipe.

  19. Happy Thanksgiving Val and YUM your dessert is AWESOME!

  20. Happiest of Thanksgivings to you, dear lady! :-) This dish is so beautiful and rich and wonderful. :-) love it!

  21. 20 comments already - and I just received the notification in my e-mail minutes ago. Weird! What a gorgeous composition and dessert, Val! Incredible. And the story that leads to us with the review of your workshop was truly a lovely way to spend a portion of my morning with my coffee. Knowing a few of the attendees makes this so interesting to me - and I will be going next year (once I retire!). I am so looking forward to it. There is a recipe from Vanja's homeland of a baked apple stuffed with walnuts, and I am definitely going to use the brittle idea as part of the presentation when I make it next. I know it is not easy to make as I did it when I made the zucchini cake recipe you sent to me. I never ended up posting it because the other one was much better and the video (I watched that episode after, twice) had different toppings than the recipe.. which you can see in the photo, too. Anyway - I would truly love to know how you make your stuffing and cranberry sauce. Thus the questions. Not to nag... but I am curious about which aspects of Canadian tradition are traditional and which vary.
    Happy Holiday!

  22. Happy Thanksgiving Val and many many blessings to you. One of the things I'd love to do in my lifetime is visit a winery, I would absolutely love that I just know it. I love both of these recipes Val, as much of an apple fanatic as I am I've never made Baked apples but that's gonna change , this looks sinfully good!

  23. Happy Thanksgiving, Val. There is something to be said in favor of celebrating this holiday in early fall.

  24. We've been doing a lot of baked apples lately, but the pecan brittle is gorgeous and inspired!

  25. You're an excellent ambassador for your country and its wines Val! Happy Thanksgiving!!

  26. Happy Thanksgiving Val. I love baked apples too and the shard of brittle stuck into the top makes this dessert quite spectacular!

  27. Baked apples are a wonderful, easy dessert and suitable for any occasion.

    I had a chard/pinot gris from MC last week from a female vitner...most enjoyable wine!

  28. Happy Thanksgiving! The spiced baked apples look incredible!

  29. What a great wine tasting experience. And, great use of wine in a dessert. Your apples and the pecan brittle look amazing! Happy Thanksgiving!

  30. Thank you Val, for taking us along with you and for this lovely dessert that is so perfect for not only the season, but for Thanksgiving. I would have devoured this dessert instantly!

  31. in my time away, i missed canadian thanksgiving and all the goodness it involves! good thing i can still read your yummy posts--this one in particular caught my eye. delicious and so appropriate! :)

  32. I just love this recipe and will try it soon; looks so good!

  33. Well, sorry to have missed out on this very appealing apple dessert. Great for the overload of apples I have waiting to be used up ;o)

    Happy belated thanksgiving ;o)

    Ciao for now,

  34. I've been looking for new apple recipes, thanks for this

  35. Gorgeous creation...I love the pecan brittle

  36. What a great idea for a Thanksgiving dessert, especially for those who want healthier choices. Plus, they look so good, I can't imagine anyone choosing the pumpkin pie over these.

  37. YUM - I love baked apples.

  38. Hi Valli,

    Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe on my get-together last week. I selected it to highlight as one that I found to be one of the best for fall freshness! Thanks again for joining up; your recipes are such a joy!


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