October 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Baked apple chunks, and what are your favorite fall flavors?

Baked Apple Chunks: pie minus the crust, calories and guilt. (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

Theres just something so October about baked apples.

Dont get me wrong, I love them all year around; in fact, toward late summer before the fresh crop arrives, baked apples are a great way to use up aging apples, cutting around bruises and avoiding the unpleasant surprise of mushy insides you chance when you eat older apples.

But come October, I have to fill my house with the smell of baked apples at least once a week. As my sister Tiff said one day recently as we chatted while I was chopping apples to bake, its better than any candle.

Social media is alight with fall flavors right now I just participated in a Twitter chat about them a few days ago, and pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, pear, and other harvest flavors abound in recipes being tweeted about. For me, baked apples are the go-to. I love their taste and texture basically pie filling without the harder work and calories.

And isnt the smell of baking apples nostalgic for just about anyone in America? When I opened the oven to pop a second batch in Thursday morning, a blast of the sweet-tart smell from the first took me back to being in the fifth grade in Maine, when we were able to buy steaming hot cider for a dime first thing in the morning at school a happy reward for having tromped through the chill and crunchy leaves to get there.

In addition to being a quick, hearty, healthy and satisfying treat for my husband and I, baked apple chunks are the best way to get my 1-year-old to eat fruit. And since they need no additional sweetener fruits natural sweetness intensifies with baking they are guilt-free, too.

Ive used this same method with pears, which I also love, but nothing tops the smell and taste of baked apples to bring out the best in October.

Its autumn in a bowl.

What are your favorite fall flavors? Wed love to hear about it in the comments below the recipe. Over the next few days, Detroit News Food Editor Maureen Tisdale will respond to comments or questions. You also can follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

Baked Apple Chunks

When Tiff and I were chatting, she asked me how long I bake apples which made me think to share them here (I guess not everyone bakes them regularly, and its always easiest to get started when the idea presents itself with easy instructions). Before she asked, I would just throw them in the oven at whatever temperature I fancied until they smelled fantastic, sometimes covering them with foil, sometimes not. This led to an inconsistent result though its easy to cross the line from baking to roasting to drying. So below is what Ive been sticking to lately its a home-run every time, and it couldnt be simpler.

By the by, I think any type of apple (except Red Delicious, which I personally dislike) works. But my absolute favorite thing to do is use a variety so as you dig into the bowl, you get this symphony of flavors a tart bite of Granny Smith here, a sweet morsel of Fuji there, etc.

2 large sheet pans

Foil

Cooking spray

5 large apples

Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Put foil on the two sheet pans and spray liberally with cooking spray.

Core and quarter the apples (no need to peel), then slice maybe a 1/4 inch thick. Cut each slice in half.

Lay them in a single layer on the pans the closer in the better for even seasoning. You can always go up an apple to fill the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and cover with foil for better cooking and moisture retention.

Bake for 20 minutes. Delicious immediately, but wonderful cold or reheated later too. Makes about four servings, or three 8 ounce servings and three small baby-sized servings.

Crowd the apple pieces as close together as possible for easier seasoning; ... (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)