Reflections on Baking:
How to Make a Dessert Out of Nothing at All

Here’s a novel idea: a sumptuous dessert from your already depleted pantry. And it’s easier than you ever imagined.

Did your mom ever make fruit cobblers? Or perhaps a baked apple with cinnamon and raisins in the middle? Nothing is easier than a baked apple, and in my opinion, nothing appeals to the senses quite as much. It just requires a few seconds of prep—and the sky’s the limit on how you can dress this sweet, healthy, make-your-house-smell-divine treat.

This is a popular trick for selling houses—baking an apple pie, a loaf of bread, or some chocolate chip cookies during the open house. The familiar smells of home-baked goods trigger happy emotions in the potential homebuyers. In fact, pumping enticing aromas into the air is a multibillion-dollar industry because it can prompt buying and spending, which, it seems, is what counts.

But it works in these isolating times as well. Smells can evoke sweet memories of the past—just think of  Sunday mornings or Thanksgiving dinners. You sighed, and I heard you. How comforting!

Fruit cobblers are also one of the most comforting treats I can imagine. A cobbler is basically a pie with either a top or bottom crust. You can use anything you have available: fresh fruit, canned fruit, dried fruit, or a combination.

Your baking skills will undoubtedly improve as you shelter in place. There was probably a time you would have begged for the privilege of staying home. Now it might be sheer boredom that motivates you, but even this can and will sharpen your baking skills. And here are a couple of easy, wonderful smelling dishes to get started.

Baked Apple

Here’s a quick tip for making a baked apple in the oven or the microwave: add a pinch (or even a sprinkle) of salt, and you won’t need much sugar. The salt fools the mouth—try it and let me know what you think.

Chef’s note: Pay attention to the amount of sugar you use. I find that my Honeycrisp apples are sweet enough without any sugar or any extra sweetening.


4 organic large apples (Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, or a combination), cored
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt
4 tablespoons (or less to taste) coconut sugar or monk fruit sugar, divided
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom, divided (optional, but good)
4 tablespoons raisins, divided
Organic whipped cream (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Core apples with a vegetable peeler. Remove seeds, but leave the blossom end intact.
  2. Pour a little lemon juice over the cavity of each apple. Sprinkle each apple with a pinch of salt (the amount that fits between your index finger and thumb).
  3. Spoon the desired amount of sugar into each cavity. Add the cinnamon and cardamom. Next, push 1 tablespoon of raisins into each apple cavity. Place apples in a shallow pan and bake for about 40 minutes.
  4. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold. If you like, add some whipped cream for company. You may even turn the whole mixture into a fruit cobbler.

Apple Brown Betty (Gluten-Free)

Chef’s note: Apple Brown Betty gets its name from the color. And though I do not use it in this recipe, it usually contains leftover stale bread. Indeed, housewives of the past would use up whatever they had—no waste in their kitchens. And now I’m hearing these same words in every email I receive.


4 apples, cored and sliced (leave skins on)
Juice of half a lemon (for tempering the apples)
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup old fashioned oats (do not use quick oats)
½ cup raisins, prunes, apricots, or other dried fruits, diced
Scant ¼ cup monk fruit sugar or coconut sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Organic whipped cream (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Sprinkle apple slices with lemon juice and sea salt. Set aside 10 minutes.
  3. Use melted butter to grease a 9-inch pan. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the apples. Mix well.
  4. Place everything in the buttered dish. Bake 25–30 minutes, or until bubbly.
  5. Serve hot or cold. If you like, you may dress it up with whipped cream, but this is delightful and fragrant just on its own.

My sweet readers craving a sweet treat—you can make something special out of nothing at all. It’s my theory that we should have been doing this all along. But that, of course, is the makings of yet another post.

Make memories at these troubled times. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Start a tradition that carries over into when “normal” life returns. We will all benefit from the wealth we already have.

Be well, and stay safe.


Image from iStock/JoaBal.

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

Products by Phyllis Quinn

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