The inspiration for this recipe goes all the way back to 5th grade and THE BEST after-school playdates.
In the dwindling days of summer that year, I received a phone call that sowed the seeds for a lifelong friendship. The caller identified herself as the friendly lady who waved to me every morning as she drove by my bus stop on her way to work. She mentioned that her daughter, Christine, would be transferring to my school in the fall and would be in my grade. She was hoping that we could meet.
The long and the short of it is that Christine and I became fast friends and enjoyed countless after-school playdates and weekend sleepovers throughout our school years. We needed only our vivid imaginations to fuel the fun as we devised the craziest ways to entertain ourselves.
Without a doubt, my favorite activity involved her family’s laundry chute. One of us would stand at the top of the chute in Christine’s second floor bathroom, and the other positioned herself beneath the chute opening where it entered the basement. The girl on the bottom would forcefully bounce a super ball on the floor, directly under the chute, in an attempt to bounce the ball clear up to the girl in the second floor bathroom. Typically, the ball would ricochet back and forth like crazy, only to fall back to the basement. But every once in a while, a perfectly straight bounce would float the ball all the way to the second floor where a waiting hand would catch it. And that was it. But it was SO MUCH FUN!
Another highlight of playing at Christine’s house after school was the snacks. They were completely different than the cookie jar basics at my house. Homemade congo bars and air-popped popcorn were staples. I was so impressed with Christine’s air popper that I made a deal with my mom. If I licked all of her Green Stamps and affixed them to those little paper books, I could use as many as needed to buy our family an air popper. I did it and loved that popper for many years to come.
I also learned to drink tea at Christine’s house and was forever ruined to plain black tea by the milky, sweet version her mom prepared for us. On really special days, there was a box of scalloped apples stowed in the freezer for us to microwave and enjoy. The tender, syrupy slices were so different than the typical snack fare in my house. I considered them a real treat.
With that memory in mind, I make a version for my family that can be enjoyed straight up or as a topping for Greek yogurt or stovetop oatmeal. For the slightly more adventurous, the warm flavors work well in autumn-inspired overnight oats. Or simply sprinkle with granola for a shortcut apple crisp. True to the version Christine and I enjoyed years ago, my recipe is cooked to tender, sweet perfection in the microwave. This speedy method also eliminates the tendency to scorch associated with the stovetop option.
Yield: approximately 1 quart or 8 (1/2 cup) servings
- 8 cups apples* (5-7 apples, depending on size)
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder (leveled off, not rounded)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter, cubed
Peel and slice or chop the apples, and then place them in a large, microwave-safe bowl. (I use an inexpensive microwave popcorn popper with a vented lid. It’s handy for so many things besides popcorn–and great for that, too!)
Combine the sugar, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples, and toss to thoroughly coat. Dot with the butter, and then cover the bowl and microwave on high for 10-12 minutes or until the apples are tender, stirring every 4-5 minutes. Check for doneness a little early and extend the cooking time if needed to account for differences among microwaves. The apples should be very tender but not mushy–sort of like apple pie filling.
Leftover apples may be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to one week. You may eat them cold or room temperature, although I like to reheat them gently in the microwave.
- I typically use a mix of sweet apples that are good for baking, like Gala, Honeycrisp, and Golden Delicious. Fuji, Jonathan, and Rome Beauty are other excellent choices. If you use less sweet apples, like Granny Smith, Cortland, Baldwin, and/or Stayman Winesaps, you may want to increase the sugar to 1/3 cup or to taste.