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Applesauce, Improved

By Staff Favorites
Wednesday, December 8, 2004; Page F02

An occasional series in which staff members share a recipe that we turn to time and again:

There are moments in a cook's life when you think You've Got It. Then reality sets in and elation turns to despair. You realize that some recipes just aren't worth the effort.

Take my first batch of homemade applesauce, which I tried about a year after I graduated from college. Craving the stuff of my childhood, I was inspired upon seeing a lavish spread of apple desserts in Martha Stewart Living.

The applesauce recipe was overwrought. It called for types of apples that I was unfamiliar with, spices that were beyond my means and quite a lot of fussing, tasting, covering, uncovering and guessing along the way. Chunky yet silken in texture and sweet but ever so slightly tart, the applesauce exceeded my already high expectations. But I had underestimated the time required for apple selecting, peeling, slicing, stirring and waiting. Ethereal but not exactly practical.

I tucked the recipe away and never forgot it, but never found the time for it after that. My made-from-scratch applesauce had, however, ruined the jarred alternative for me.

My applesauce hiatus lasted almost a decade. Then this fall I happened upon a recipe for a mash of oven-roasted tart apples and sweet pears while flipping through the "Stonewall Kitchen Harvest," by Jim Stott, Jonathan King and Kathy Gunst (Clarkson Potter, 2004). There was still peeling to contend with, but minimal slicing and no constant tending. There was another lure, the fact that it brought together two compatible fruits. I contemplated the recipe daily for several weeks before I tried it, thinking that surely it couldn't be as memorable as the one I'd spent hours laboring over once before.

In fact, this one is better. And simpler.

Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce

Makes about 4 cups

The fruit comes out of the oven puffed slightly, steaming profusely and exuding juices sweet as nectar. The resulting mash comes together in a matter of seconds. The tartness of McIntosh apples melds seamlessly with the sweetness of Bosc pear.

Depending on the use of aromatics and arm power, the sauce may be made sweet or savory, smooth or chunky. All of the variations that follow are equally effortless and impressive. Purists may shudder, but swapping maple syrup for sugar quickly became my standard.

8 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and quartered

4 almost ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and quartered

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

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