German Baked Apples Bratapfel takes me right back to childhood! I don’t think at the time anyone thought of them as being particularly “German.” They were, like so many recipes that were ubiquitous to the Midwest, just a part of small-town, down-home cooking. Baked apples appeared a lot-at our table for dessert.
I don’t know if they were ever as “fancy” as some of the baked apple recipes out there, and I don’t think they were the kind of thing most people even used a recipe for. They were just something that everyone “knew” how to make if that makes sense, and I think almost everyone made them. And while I love recipes (if you have a recipe you can “go” anywhere in the world and make anything as long as you can get the ingredients) I also love letting ingredients inspire me. This is one of those “recipes” and you can really scrounge around and see what you can toss in.
About German Baked Apples Bratapfel:
Baked apples are like that. So think of this as kind of a “non-recipe” recipe, a guide if you will to deliciousness. So if you have apples, tart ones are best but any kind will do, even if they’ve been sitting around and are just a little past their prime, some form of sweetness, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup (although the latter is a bit of a departure) a few raisins or other dried fruit, maybe a few nuts (almonds, pecans, possibly walnuts in that order of preference) and a touch of butter, you can proudly plop this oh so ugly they’re actually kind of cool dessert on the table after dinner; a warm. fragrant, comforting bit of something made from almost nothing.
You can easily up the ante in the flavor department in so many ways. I like to soak the raisins in a little apple juice or apple cider and right before baking, then drizzle the rest of the juice/cider over the apples; the apples will form their own caramelly sauce as they bake.
You’ll have to watch that it doesn’t burn and add more apple juice/cider or a little water if the liquid gets low. (And if you don’t have juice or cider, a little water will be just fine.) If you’d like, you can get fancier and add a smidge of rum to that juice (or brandy or bourbon), or go even fancier and use a sweetish white wine.
Some Traditional (and some maybe not so much) Add-Ins:
In many German recipes, you’ll see many of the fillings contain Marzipan, which is a very sweet confection; a mixture of almond meal and sugar. I’m sure those are probably the “best” holiday/special occasion baked apples in many families and a lot of those recipes use blanched, slivered almonds, too. That’s kind of getting beyond the frugal, everyday dessert, though, but it’s wonderful.
I’ve used Almond Paste before in my baked apples, which isn’t exactly cheap either but isn’t as sweet, and usually, that’s when I’ve bought it for a specific purpose and have a smidge leftover. That’s def not as traditional but is still delish!
If you have either, you can’t go wrong adding a little to your filling but believe me, you won’t suffer without either! You can usually find one or both in the baking department of just about any grocery store. Some people (I’m sure it’s us Americans, lol) mix in a tablespoon or two of cream cheese. I haven’t tried it but I can “get” the idea.
One thing I do always add if I have it on hand is a little lemon, squeezed over any exposed apples to keep any unattractive changes in color at bay, and to add a little acid to counteract all the sweetness. If there’s any juice left after the apples have all been coated and stuffed, I just set the lemon aside and squeeze any remaining juice over the top of the apples after they have been filled.
The Spices for German Baked Apples Bratapfel:
You can go with how you’re feeling when deciding how to spice your filling. Sometimes I’ll just use a touch of salt (and don’t call me crazy until you try it) a little black pepper. Other times I might add 1/2 teaspoon or more (you can always taste it and adjust) of cinnamon.
Then sometimes, I really want a full-on fall/holiday experience. I might add some apple pie spice, probably one of my own coz it’s just so simple to make and so much fresher than storebought. Here’s my fave Apple Pie Spice and it’s the one that goes in every apple pie I’ve made for decades. It won’t fail you here but use a store-bought one if you have it on hand or buy one if you’re not wanting to make your own. A little ginger and/or lemon or orange peel can always be added; that makes me think more of Christmas than fall.
You’ll also see recipes where cinnamon sticks and maybe star anise garnish the plates or are added to the baking pan to flavor the apple juice. That’s always nice, too. It’s the kind of thing I might do just for a special occasion. I resisted the urge for this post because this really isn’t about “fancy.” If you’d like to do so, just use one or two of each or those strong flavors can get overwhelming.
The Apples to Use in Bratapfel:
The apple is everything! The type and size of the apple are going to affect the taste, the sweetness, the texture, and the baking time. A firmer, tarter apple will usually be the best choice. Tart, baking apples (although there are so many these days that are great for both eating and baking) are going to:
- Have a better balance and be less sweet.
- Hold up better to baking without getting overly mealy, mushy.
- Take longer to bake than a sweeter eating apple; they’re a little firmer.
In Germany, it seems the preferred apple to use is the Boskop apple, which you might see mentioned below in the comments. In the US this is not a commercially available apple, so it’s not on the list, below, but if you do know someone who grows them, go for it!
Bon Appetit lists their Six Favorite Apples for Baking, but there are so many more! Braeburn, Honey Crisp, Jonathan and even the workhorse Granny Smith are some of my faves and the first three are on their list, too. The apples I used today are huge Pazazz and the Evil Queen herself would have been proud of them! Maybe you have a fave apple to suggest?
The size of your apple is going to make a difference & you might need to make some adjustments (more on that, later) if your apples are larger or smaller than standard size. Obviously, large apples might need a little more filling and might need to bake a little longer, too, while just the opposite is true of small apples. Do try to pick apples, if possible, that will stand up on their own.
Filling the Apples:
An apple corer won’t do the job for to hollow out the apple for this style of baked apple. A mellon baller and/or a spoon and a small paring knife, maybe to go around the edge and a little patience will get the job done. Do slice off a generous amount for the top, as shown, first. Try to cut so the flat top of the apple will be level; no need to be perfect, though.
Of course, how large or small your apple is and how much apple you remove from the center is going to affect the amount of filling you have to use.
- Just add a smidge more of everything if the apples are really huge and if it looks like you’re still going to run short, chop up some of the apple you removed and add it into the filling.
- If you don’t like nuts, you have to make up the volume of filling with something, and just adding more dried fruit might make it an obnoxious amount! Again, just chop up some of the apple you removed and add it.
- You can eyeball the filling or divide it into 4 portions and fill one apple to see if you have enough filling. It doesn’t matter if the filling is “level” and I think it is best t mounded up over the top.
- You’ll get a feel for how much and what works for you after you make this a time or two. Don’t pack the filling down hard but do make sure to press it down and that the apples are well filled.
And as far as the filling itself? The first step is to soak the raisins (or other dried fruit.) You can cover with water or apple juice/cider and let it sit for an hour or two or just measure the liquid in a microwave-safe container, like a glass measuring cup, then add the raisins and microwave for two minutes.
Taste your filling before you put it in the apples. Make sure you like it! Add more sugar, salt, and spices if you’re using them if you think it needs it. Keep in mind it will taste a little sweeter as it all mingles with the juices from the apple and/or apple juice or cider when it bakes.
Baking your Apples:
Use a pan that’s just a little larger than your apples. It’s better to have a smidge of room between them for air circulation so they get soft all around at about the same rate. (Mine were actually a little snug, but the apples were so huge!)
Don’t use a pan that’s too large or that “sauce” that forms at the bottom might burn and/or not be concentrated enough by the time you add enough liquid to keep it from burning. In a pinch, I have used aluminum foil to make a smaller “pan” inside of a larger one, just by turning up the edges.
As far as time, it’s all a judgment call. Different apples bake at different rates, different sizes will need more or less time, and then there’s personal taste. I prefer mine on the softer side. I bake mine uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes until I can pierce the side of one easily with a small knife, then add the little lids and bake about 10 to 12 more minutes. I watch them towards the end and when they’re starting to look a little “wrinkly” I call them done.
Don’t over pierce, btw! You don’t want all the juices to flow out! And do watch the liquid level at the bottom of the pan, adding more as needed but not so much that it won’t reduce and caramelize. Just a few tablespoons now and then will usually do it.
Garnishing your German Baked Apples Bratapfel:
In many German recipes, you won’t see any extra liquid added to the filling. They’re just baked basically dry. Instead of the liquid that forms there are then served with a Vanilla Custard Sauce (Creme Anglaise). That link will take you to a very fast, easy, foolproof version, shown below. An easy cheat is to melt a vanilla ice-cream.
Speaking of which, these could be garnished with vanilla ice-cream of freshly whipped cream instead, although personally, I think whipped cream seems just a little light-weight to serve with the apples.
If you want to look really fancy, use a few cinnamon sticks and/or star anise as mentioned above, maybe place a cinnamon stick in each apple, jauntily jutting out, just for effect.
Saving Money on German Baked Apples Bratapfel:
While I’m really sticking fairly closely to tradition, someday I’ll put out a “companion” post with some of the other ways I’ve baked apples! Apples are so common, so readily available, so inexpensive in most areas (watch for sales) that so many of us take them for granted! There’s no need to ever let them go by when maybe all we need is a little inspiration.
Apples really have two seasons. The first of course, is fall. Or Autumn if you think of it that way. That’s when you’ll really find the best crisp apples in great variety and it’s likely that every week they’ll be a different apple or two on sale at the store. The bags are often great deals but do a little checking and make sure all the apples are sound.
The second “season” starts around late January to early February when the apples come out of storage. If you’ve ever wondered why all of a sudden it seems like apples are on sale in the middle of winter, that’s why. Even in storage, they only last for a limited time, so take advantage of it when you see them.
It really does pay to have a freezer. You can stock up on all kinds of items when they’re at a low and use them all year long. The time to pick up most dried fruit and nuts at the best prices is going to be in the fall, starting before Thanksgiving and lasting to just before New Years’. Nuts, for optimum freshness, should be kept in the freezer. Dried fruit should be placed in a sturdy bag if they aren’t in one already and kept in a cool, dark place. You can see my post, Win at the Grocers, Winter Holidays for other items that will be at a low then.
German Baked Apples Bratapfel
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 apples 1x
- Category: Dessertsq
- Cuisine: German
- half cup apple cider, apple juice or water (plus more to add to pan as needed)
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 4 tart baking apples
- about 1/2 lemon, optional
- 2 tablespoons marzipan (optional)
- 1/4 chopped almonds
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
- half a teaspoon salt
- spices of choice, 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon, apple pie spice, and/or a few grinds of black pepper
- Cinnamon sticks and star anise for decoration, optional
Soak the raisins in the apple juice/cider for two hours or place them, with the juice/cider in the microwave for 2 minutes on high. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 390 degrees F. Grease a casserole large enough to hold the apples, preferably with a little space between each apple.
Wash your apple, cut off the upper portion for a lid. Generously core, leaving about 1/2 inch on the outside. Squeeze lemon juice over all cut portions, including the cut portion of the lid. Save any lemon left and squeeze over the apples after they’re filled.
Mix together the drained raisins (reserve the soaking liquid). Cut off the upper part like a lid and core it generously. (Reserve some of the removed apple in case it’s needed for the filling.)
If using Marzipan, crumble it into a small bowl. Add the softened butter, mix together. It will not be smooth; lumpy is just fine. Add in the almonds, the raisins, sweetener of choice, salt, and any spices. Taste and adjust salt, sugar, seasonings to taste.
Divide filling into 4 portions (One apple may be filled to see if there is enough filling; if not, chop some of the reserved apple and add.) Press the filling into each apple, mounding as needed. Add apples to casserole. If you have any lemon left, squeeze it over the filling. Pour the reserved soaking liquid over. Place apples into oven; set aside the “lids”. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until a small knife inserted in one pierces easily. Add lids and bake an additional 10 to 12 minutes.
As apples bake, watch the liquid level; it should turn golden brown but if it looks as if it could be in danger of burning (it will get dark around the edges of the pan) add additional liquid in small amounts, a few tablespoons at a time, as needed.
Add to Now press the filling into the baked apples until they are full, there may also be something over them. Greases a baking dish. Take the baked apples, put them in the mold, and pour the remaining apple juice over them. Now bake them without a lid for 25 minutes.
This filling is for an average size apple; if using larger apples, increase the filling and juice/apple juice to compensate.
Keywords: Alcohol, Almonds, Apple, apple cider, apple juice, bourbon, brandy, Bratapfel, Desserts, Dried Fruit, Fruit Desserts, German, Nuts and Seeds, Raisins, Rum
I’ll be sharing my Shredded Chicken (Pollo Mechado) Arepas at Fiesta Friday #325 this week, cohosted by me! That’s right, me! Also, I’ll be posting at The Weekend Potluck, a collaborative sharing site run by several of my favorite bloggers.