3 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup honey (preferably 100 percent raw honey from a small producer)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
6 unpeeled Braeburn, Golden Delicious or McIntosh apples, halved and cored with a melon baller
1/2 cup golden raisins or currants
1/2 cup dried apricots, julienned
6 whole cloves
2 or 3 star anise pods
2 to 3 cinnamon sticks, optional
1/4 cup apple brandy
In a medium saucepan, combine the apple cider, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes or so, or until mixture is syrupy and reduced to about 2 2/3 cups.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the apples, cut side down, in a 12-inch baking pan. Distribute the raisins, apricots, cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks, if using, over the apples. Pour the hot syrup over the apples. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the apples are almost tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from the oven, turn the apples over, add the brandy. Baste apples with the apple cider and apple brandy many times, allowing the apples to absorb the flavor. Let the pan stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Serve baked apples with the liquid and dried fruits spooned over them in a bowl. Served with whipped heavy cream or ice cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
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