I rediscovered a bag of apples in the basement a few days ago. They were leftover from an apple-picking / winery-visiting afternoon in September. At first, I left the bag on the kitchen table, and I would grab one to have with lunch every day. After I finished the ones that met my apples-eaten-fresh-must-be-crisp standards, the rest of them just kept sitting there, taking up space on the kitchen table. At some point, we had friends over—which is the only time our house ever gets cleaned—and I put the apples in the basement to get them out of the way. And then I forgot about them for a month or so.
These were sad, wrinkly apples. They were super soft, which is how I like my cookies, but not my raw fruit. They weighed next to nothing because they were so dried up.
With the salvageable ones, which were all Golden Delicious, making applesauce didn’t sound that appealing, and I wasn’t sure they would make a very tasty pie. Sautéing them to use as a yogurt topping sounded like a winner though. In general, I think real fruit mixed into plain or vanilla yogurt is way better than flavored yogurt. I’ve done the real-fruit-and-yogurt combo with juicier fruits like raw berries, but never with apples. Also, I have tried some apple-cinnamon flavored yogurts, and I always wish they tasted more like apple and less like cinnamon.
I didn’t want the apples to be overly sweet or buttery, because I was looking for something that would be more like a breakfast and less like a dessert, something I could eat on a weekday and not feel like I was indulging (too much). I also found that cooking the apples for a really long time gave the most concentrated flavor and the best textural contrast because they almost got a little chewy—if I didn’t cook them long enough, it just tasted like applesauce mixed into yogurt: mush and mush.
Lastly, I wanted to add nuts, for protein and for crunch. I tried adding toasted plain pecans, which were good, but chopped-up candied pecans were even better, and also added an extra boost of cinnamon-y deliciousness.
This is definitely a sweeter breakfast, and I did like it best with vanilla yogurt, but you could use plain yogurt or plain toasted pecans (or any other nut) to make it less sweet. I don’t call for much cinnamon in the apples because there is also some cinnamon in the spiced nuts, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the apple flavor. If you prefer more cinnamon or if you use plain nuts, you could increase the cinnamon in the apples. You can also scale back the apple recipe for one serving–just use 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar per apple, and cinnamon and lemon juice to taste.
Yogurt with Sautéed Apples with Spiced Pecans
- 4 tsp. unsalted butter
- 4 cooking apples (peeling optional; I kept it on)
- healthy pinch of table salt
- 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Set a large, 12″ non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and add the butter.
- Cut each apple into quarters and core them. Slice lengthwise again (so you have 8 slices per apple), and chop crosswise into about 1/8″ wide slices.
- Add the apples to the butter, then sprinkle with the brown sugar and the pinch of salt.
- Sauté over medium-low for about 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. The heat should be low enough that you really don’t need to pay that much attention to them. 30 minutes is a long time if you’re just staring at the pan. It’s a perfect time to do something like get caught up your Serial podcast, which is what I did.
- After 30 minutes, turn the heat up to medium, and sauté for another 15 or 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and quite shrunken. (My 4 apples shrunk down to less than 2 cups.) Stir more occasionally to avoid burning.
- When the apples are brown to your liking, remove from heat, and stir in the cinnamon and the lemon juice.
- Let cool, then serve over plain or vanilla yogurt and sprinkled with a couple of tablespoons of chopped spiced pecans (see recipe below).
yields about 2 cups
This is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s sugar-and-spice candied nuts, which was adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country. Note: You will only use about 1/4 of the egg mixture. The original recipe calls for 1 egg white for 16 oz. of nuts, and I scaled it down to 4 oz. of nuts, partly because even just 4 oz. will make way more than you need for 4 servings of yogurt topping, and partly because they are really snackable and I didn’t want to be tempted to chow down on a pound of spiced nuts. Trying to measure out 1/4 of an egg white seemed like an exercise in futility, so just use what you need and dump the rest. And no, I’m not going to make a post on what to do with 3/4 of a leftover egg white that’s been mixed with water.
- 4 tsp. packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. white sugar
- 1/4 tsp. table salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- pinch each of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg
- 1 egg white, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 4 oz. pecan halves (about 1 cup)
- Preheat the oven to 300º, and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
- Mix together both sugars, the salt, and all the spices until no longer lumpy.
- Beat or whisk together the egg white and water until frothy.
- Add about 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the pecans, until they are just coated.
- Add the sugar and spice mixture to the pecans, and toss until evenly coated. It is going to look like more coating than is necessary, but it works.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.