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Spiced Baked Apples With Maple Caramel Sauce

 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, more for pan
 4 tart baking apples, like Winesap or Empire
 1/3 cup plus 4 teaspoons maple syrup
 4 teaspoons brown sugar
 4 teaspoons chopped pecans
 4 teaspoons chopped golden raisins
 1/4 cup dry white wine or water
 3 cardamom pods
 2 whole cloves
 1 1/4-inch-thick slice fresh ginger root
 1 (2-inch) piece cinnamon stick

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a small cake or baking pan. Use a vegetable peeler
to peel a strip of skin from around stem of each apple. Use a melon baller or grapefruit
spoon to scoop out core of each apple, leaving at least  1/4 inch at base. Stand apples in
pan and use a paring knife to make 6 vertical cuts surrounding cavity, being sure not to
pierce through bottom of apple.

2. Place 1 teaspoon butter and 1 teaspoon maple syrup into cavity of each apple. Mix
together brown sugar, pecans and raisins, and stuff  1/4 of this mixture into each apple.
Pour remaining maple syrup and the wine into bottom of pan, and add cardamom, cloves,
ginger and cinnamon.

3. Bake apples, basting with liquid in pan every 5 to 7 minutes, until tender yet not
collapsed, 45 minutes to an hour. Serve warm or at room temperature, with custard if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

Note: Apples can be made without the filling of brown sugar, pecans and raisins.