I want to like applesauce, but it's too much like babyfood. The following is more like a chunky compote, and can be tweaked to your liking with regard to doneness, homogeneity, sweetness, spice, etc. If you want to make smooth applesauce, this is a great starting point - just make the following, then puree or smash.
- This is so stupidly simple I can't even write out a proper recipe for it. Cut apples in half, remove seeds and cores, place cut-side down on a baking sheet, then roast at 350 F (175 C) for about half an hour until the juices start to caramelize. Let cool, then scrape the flesh away from the skins.
This is the tasiest thing I know how to make with just one ingredient. It contains no fat and usually needs no added sugar.
You can do this with any number of apples, provided they fit on your baking sheet (any pan with a rim will do). If baking only a few, you can use a toaster oven.
I like to use several varieties, as the flavor of each will differ, making a more complex final product. Pairing tart ones with sweet ones is always good.
Different varieties will also yield different colors. A cooked red apple will be yellowish-white at the center, and bright to dark pink right next to the skin. Scraping the skins well will get all that beautiful color out. I'm usually pro-peel, but find they turn a little tough and weird cooked this way.
If you end up with something too tart, add a little brown sugar. Too sweet? Lemon juice. You could also add the usual apple pie spices, but this is so good on its own, I rarely add anything but cinnamon.
Don't cut these into slices before baking. The cut sides will dry out in the oven. When halved and placed cut side down, the juices seal in that side, and have a chance to caramelize on the pan. This caramelization adds sweetness and richness of flavor, and is the only reason for not just leaving them whole.
Using parchment isn't necessary, but does make cleanup easier, as those caramelized sugars basically turn into glue (removable with super-hot water). I made this this afternoon, and used one bare pan, and one lined with parchment. The juices from the apples on the bare pan did seem to have more of a tendency to burn, but this isn't a big deal - just keep an eye on them.
If using different varieties of apple, you will find that some cook more quickly than others. Depending on your taste, you may also want to take these out of the oven before they're totally softened. For this reason it's smart to set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, then investigate every few minutes after that. Poke them with a knife. Remove anything that looks like it's starting to burn.
This is a great way to use up apples that are going a little soft, that are too sweet or tart to eat, or that have bruises or weirdness. Cut off any parts that aren't something you want to eat, but don't worry about minor bruises - they're just internal oxidation, and those spots will still be tasty once cooked.
Will keep in the fridge for perhaps a week, and in the freezer indefinitely.
They cool much faster if flipped to have their cut sides facing up.
This is insanely good on ice cream and/or pancakes.
Photo here. It is not beautiful! But it is tasty.