6 medium apples
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a shallow 8-by-12-inch (or similar) baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Core apples all the way through with an apple corer, making a 1-inch-wide hole. Peel the upper third of each apple. Using a sharp paring knife, score the flesh about 1/4 inch deep around the circumference, more or less where the peeled and unpeeled areas meet. With the paring knife angled down, cut a shallow crater around the top of the hole to help hold the preserves that will go there. Set aside while you make the filling.
3. Place walnuts, raisins (or dried cranberries) and coconut (if using) in a food processor. Chop the mixture fairly well, but not too fine; you want it to remain somewhat textured. Add syrup, lemon zest, cinnamon and nutmeg; pulse several times to combine.
4. Place the apples in the prepared baking dish and gently press 1/4 cup filling into each cavity. Spoon a generous tablespoon of preserves onto the crater of each apple.
5. Combine cider and butter in a small saucepan; heat over low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Pour the liquid over and around the apples.
6. Cover the apples loosely with tented foil and bake on the center rack for 30 minutes. Remove foil and baste the apples well. Continue to bake, uncovered, for 20 to 35 minutes more (depending on the size of the apples), basting every 10 minutes, until the apples are tender throughout. The best way to test them is with a thin bamboo skewer; the slightest bit of resistance near the center is OK because they'll finish cooking as they cool. Let the apples cool right in the pan, basting periodically.
Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, with some of the pan juices spooned over each.