I followed Dorie's directions to peel mid-way down the apple, make a shallow cut around the apple, where the peel begins, then rub the cut with lemon. This seemed overly fussy, and I doubt I'd bother in the future. She says it will keep the apple from splitting. Mine did remain intact, but it was an annoying step for a dessert that would otherwise be super-fast to set up.
Thanks to Diane for the tip to use the melon baller to carve out the apple core without breaking through the bottom. I was making a hell of a mess of it with a knife, until I remembered that I do, in fact, own a melon baller. That made life much simpler.
I packed the apples with a mix of honey, raisins, dates, dried cranberries, and chopped almonds, poured apple juice, butter, and the reserved apple peels into the pan. (Why use the peel? Does the pectin in the skin thicken the sauce a little? Is it a flavoring agent? Why, Dorie? Why?) I thought it would be a pain in the butt to baste the apples every 15 minutes, but it wasn't.
In addition to the delightful textural contrast of the nuts and fruit inside the not-quite-spoon-tender, but still soft apple, my favorite part was that some of the honey (or maybe it was the dates? Couldn't tell.) caramelized into stick-to-your-teeth, chewy surprises. Yum.
I revisited last week's Dressy Pasta Risotto for dinner, and used the last two spoonfuls of mascarpone left in the container to top the apples. Perfetto!
In addition, I caught up on the Goat Cheese Mini Puffs. I brought them, along with a lasagne and Dorie's Provencal Olive Fougasse (one of my favorite recipes from the book) to a friend's house on New Years Eve. She was providing the location for a party a mere 3 hours after her plane from Venice touched down. She supplied booze and space, guests brought food. It was an excellent trade.
I'm glad I made the puffs, to cross them off the list. I'd pick gougeres over these any day. They were fine, and the entire tray disappeared quickly, but I won't be making them again.