Almond-Stuffed Baked Apples with Caramel-Apple Sauce



1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 large egg white

4 Braeburn apples, halved
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
1 teaspoon butter
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare filling, place almonds in a food processor; process until finely ground. Combine ground almonds, sugar, and next 5 ingredients (through egg white), stirring until well combined.
To prepare apples, core, remove seeds, and carefully scoop out 1 tablespoon from each apple half to form a cup. Cut a thin slice off the rounded side of each apple half to make a flat surface; place apples cup-side up on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle generously over apples. Spoon about 1 tablespoon filling in cup of each apple half. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until apples are golden and tender.

To prepare sauce, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat (do not stir) until mixture begins to brown; gently tilt pan and swirl to evenly brown mixture. Reduce heat to low; slowly add cider, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in remaining ingredients. Serve over apples.
Wine note: Since this dessert is not super sweet, it’s perfect for wine pairing. Very sweet desserts are harder to pair because they can make wine taste dull or neutral. A terrific choice is Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise from Jaboulet, France. The 2001 is about $16 for a 375-milliliter half-bottle. Just a small glass of this wonderfully opulent wine will make the baked apples taste like a three-star dessert course.