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January 7, 2010

Agave nectar (Recipe: granola-filled baked apples)

Baked apple

Nine things I know about agave nectar (you'll be glad to know them, too):

Agave nectar
  1. Agave nectar and agave syrup are two names for the same food.
  2. Pronounced ah-GAH-vay, it's a viscous product (like honey or maple syrup) derived from the blue agave, an ancient plant native to central Mexico. Blue agave gives us tequila, too, but that might not taste as good on pancakes.
  3. Agave nectar is higher in fructose and lower in glucose than sugar or honey, making it lower on the glycemic index -- a measure of how much your blood sugar increases after eating a specific food. For diabetics, it's a better choice of sweetener.
  4. The 60 calories per tablespoon of agave is roughly the same calorie load as honey.
  5. To substitute in a recipe, use 3/4 cup agave nectar for 1 cup of sugar. When baking, you might have to reduce the amount of liquid in the original recipe to allow for the added liquid from the agave. Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees, too.
  6. Agave nectar can be combined with artificial sweeteners like Splenda to counter their aftertaste, and it dissolves more quickly than honey, making it the perfect mix-in for iced tea.
  7. Have you ever seen a cappuccino-flavored blue agave plant? Neither have I, but agave nectar now comes in two grades (light and amber) and half a dozen flavors, including vanilla, blueberry, Irish creme and, yes, cappuccino. The light grade is what I reach for most often, as an all-purpose sweetener. The amber, more deeply flavored, like maple syrup,  makes a great topping for waffles and adds more richness to gingerbread.
  8. Whether you're making agave-sweetened chocolate ice cream, agave and balsamic glazed roasted buttercup squash, agave and lime salmon, black bean brownies, or fresh cranberry sorbet, you'll have fun experimenting with agave nectar in sweet and savory dishes.
  9. Once opened, agave can sit on the pantry shelf for 12 months or more. No need to refrigerate.

Baked apple 

Granola-filled baked apples

With apples from the local orchard and a few items from the pantry, this dessert came together in minutes. Make one apple per person (though our eight-year-old grandson asked for seconds, so make an extra one if he's at your dinner table). Proportions aren't very important in this recipe.

Ingredients

1 apple per person (use firm apples, like Macoun, Cortland or Jonathan)
2 Tbsp granola per apple
Agave nectar
1 pat of butter per apple
Ground cinnamon
Pomegranate or unsweetened apple juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Core the apples (with an apple corer or sharp paring knife), and stand them in a high sided cake pan. Fill each apple with granola. Squirt a bit of agave nectar on the apple and the filling. Top the granola with a pat of butter, and sprinkle on a pinch of cinnamon.

Pour pomegranate or unsweetened apple juice into the pan, to a depth of 1/2 inch. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the apples are soft when pierced with a sharp knife.

Spoon some of the pan liquid on top of each apple, and serve warm. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if you wish.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Five-spice applesauce
Apple spice cake
Apple-pear-cranberry crisp
Grilled peaches with balsamic and granola
Asparagus, pepper and peanut soba

Comments

My favorite summer cocktail: raw margaritas!

In a shaker, mix a good quality silver tequila, agave nectar, fresh lime wedges, and ice. Shake well and serve in a salt-rimmed glass!

SO much better for you than the sour-mix variety, and WAY more delicious :)

My mouth is watering. I've actually never used agave nectar, but I'm sold as of this minute. Bring on the apples!

i love baked apples and we like to enjoy them in several variations. this winter i discovered filling them with a marzipan mixture so good. i love the idea of adding granola to them. perfect!

I just bought amber and light and was wondering what to try them on first..crisper drawer is holding apples... Butternut squash is in the holding bin.I know what we are having for dinner tonight.

Up to now, I've only used agave in my tea, which I love. It is my absolute favorite sweetner for tea, since it doesn't flavor the tea like honey does. I'll have to try it in other ways.

The granola stuffing sounds good. I have seen the Agave nectar at the grocery store, but I have never tried it. We bake apples all the time in the microwave. We don't want to of heat up the big oven for 2 apples. 4 to 6 minutes and they are done. I wrap them in plastic wrap and they are shrink wrapped when they are done.
We put pecans and raisins in the center of ours.

I love agave and it is now my favortie sweetener. But every time I mention it to anyone in the health field these days, they sound the alarm about agave being too close to high fructose corn syrup, deadly to your liver, etc.--articles abound these days on agave's drawbacks. What's your take on it? I'm still using it but do find it difficult to defend sometimes.

Sounds super!

What a nice, homey and healthy treat! I use agave nectar a lot for sweetening tea or drizzling in yogurt, and have been wondering about new ways to use it. This is a great idea!

That picture is amazing. If I had all the ingredients, I would postpone getting down to work so that I could make those apples right away!

I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around the recipe you linked to: brownies with agave and black beans. Black beans! I may have to try that from sheer curiosity.

Sounds like I might have to get out my Christian Ridge Pottery- have you seen these? www.applebaker.com

I've seen agave nectar in the shops, but I haven't bought it because I didn't know anything about it. Thanks for the information--I think I'll try it. Seems like a good thing!

I used agave nectar in a mango cheesecake recently and it worked great! I'm thinking that Trader Joe's ginger granola would be perfect in this apple dessert. Love the photo- I bought a new 60mm lens for my Canon last week and hope to someday come close to taking photos as gorgeous as yours.

I was thinking I should have a bottle of this for the bar too, should be good for cocktails.
Love the baked apple recipe, I have a similar one bookmarked.

This looks delicious. I personally don't believe agave is harmful, especially used in small amounts as I use it. Many of the concerns about about brands that are produced using a chemical process that creates fructose, but I believe the brand have mentioned here is not made that way, at least according to this: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/is-agave-nectar-safe/

(Hope you don't mind me leaving the link, truly I'm not advertising for them, but just happened to run across that recently and saved it.)

I love agave nectar. I actually am giving away some on my blog right now - what a coincidence! I use it a lot in place of sugar or honey, but I'm starting to learn to use it in baking - making sugar-free cookies, breads, etc. It's awesome!

I'd so love to make this, but in my house no one's ever been able to make any other baked apples than those my Dad makes, with dates and walnuts. One day I will wrest the baked apple crown from him and be free to cook all kinds of different recipes! And hopefully this will be one of the first I try...

I've tried the black bean agave brownies - they're rich and really good! Have you ever seen Agave Honey powder? I found it in a Korean Market and am wondering how to use it - is it agave or honey? How can it be used in cooking/baking? If anyone has any info, I'd appreciate it!

I don't use sugar or take much sweets but I recently bought agave to experiment...and I bought it for reason #3. I find it is not as tasty as honey. Perhaps I bought an inferior brand, perhaps I use too little or not often enough to acquire a 'taste'.

I have agave nectar in the pantry, but I've never used it - this recipe may finally be the incentive!

I use it on so many things like oatmeal, toast and chicken! I love it.

This was so informational! I loved it!!

That dessert looks AMAZING! I will definitely be trying that baby out!

Those apples look just so desirable . I am wondering if this syrup is available anywhere in Australia.

Dani, I can hear everyone salivating at the thought of those margaritas!

Toni, I'm not much of a dessert maker, but something like this is easy and brings everyone back to childhood. I made it for Christmas Eve dinner and it was a huge hit with all ages.

Meeta, I never would have thought of a marzipan filling -- but if my husband is reading this, he'll be quite excited as he loves marzipan!

Chef, you have the makings of a delicious dinner!

Pam, I agree. I don't have a real sweet tooth, so the "less sweet" agave taste works well for me. It's great in iced tea, and in hot tea, too.

Ricki, see Kalyn's comment below yours. I haven't read anything that indicates that in the small amounts we use, there is a danger associated with agave nectar. Plus it has some real advantages for diabetics in the way the fructose affects blood sugar. I don't have any hesitation about recommending it or serving it to my family, but it's always important to read everything you can and make your own choices.

Susan, I probably use agave more in savory dishes than in sweet ones. It's a great balancer for lemon juice in vegetable soups.

Judy, see Katie's comment -- she's made the black bean brownies, and I know others who have, too. To me, they sound delicious. And weird.

Carol, thanks for the link. These were new to me.

Kate, if you put "agave" in the search box at the top of this page, you'll find lots of recipes here that use it. Definitely worth having agave nectar in your pantry.

Janice, next time I'm at TJ's I'll look for that granola; it would be delicious in these apples. Have fun with your new lens. I love mine!

Natashya, you and Dani are on the same wave length.

Kalyn, thanks so much for leaving the link. I agree completely; in small amounts, I believe agave to be perfectly safe, and perfectly delicious.

Alta, I'm still learning, too. I find myself reaching for the agave far more often than I do for the honey from my neighbor's bees.

Hannah, those family traditions are hard to break! But some day I'm sure you will be baked apple queen of the family!

Katie, I've never heard of or seen that powder. So, readers, please help us out -- if anyone is familiar with Agave Honey powder, leave some info in the comments.

Joan, I think one of the virtues of agave is that it doesn't have the strong taste of honey, so it tends not to flavor a dish but just to add sweetness. The brand in the photo is the one I use; I like the taste, and it's also easiest to find in the markets around here.

TW, there are several recipes here that use agave, and I'm adding more all the time. So get that bottle out of the pantry!

Noble Pig, I love it on chicken and in barbecue sauce, too.

Good Taste, I hope you do try it. Easy and delicious.

Kate, I'm guessing it is available, but if you can't find it in the markets, I'm sure you can get it online. If you get completely stuck, let me know and I'll be happy to send you some.

I've never used it but a lot of my friends absolutely swear by it. Maybe it's time I gave it a shot!

I like agave to make granola. Makes it nice and glossy! Uh, and it tastes good too!

Agave nectar; listening about this handy natural stuff first time, would definitely try it. Will baked apple also keep the doctor away, hahaha just kidding would try it also for lill kids.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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