CARAMEL-GLAZED BAKED APPLES OR PEARS
With a sharp knife or potato peeler, remove stem, core, and seeds from apples; remove peel from top fourth of each apple. Remove peel from top half of each pear, but leave stem and core intact. (Or, peel pears, cut each in half, and remove core and seeds.) Sprinkle cut surfaces of apples and pears with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
Arrange apples and pears in a 9 to 10-inch diameter pie plate. May fill the cavity of each piece of fruit with dried cherries as desired. Evenly spoon about half of the caramel topping/sauce over each fruit. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated moderate oven (375 degrees F.) for 35 to 45 minutes or until fork tender. Baste apples/pears frequently with caramel topping during baking. About 10 minutes before end of baking time, sprinkle each piece of fruit with nuts of choice, if desired.
To serve, transfer each piece of fruit to an individual serving dish. Spoon additional caramel topping/sauce over each baked fruit as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature, plain with sauce, or accompanied with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a wedge of cheese.
Microwave Instructions: Prepare as previously directed and microwave, uncovered, at HIGH power for 12 minutes; check degree of doneness and continue micro-waving, if necessary, at HIGH power in increments of 30 second intervals until desired degree of doneness is achieved. Apples should be fork tender but not mushy. Do not add nuts to fruits while micro-waving as they will become soft. May wish to toast nuts separately.
Homemade Caramel Topping/Sauce:
About 1¾ cups
In a small heavy saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in brown sugar and milk (or apple jack brandy and milk), mixing well. Cook, stirring constantly, over moderate heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until mixture is thickened and bubbly hot. Stir in caramel flavoring, if desired.