In the dead of winter when you have 4 questionable apples and can't make it to the store, the perfect dessert is an apple sonker. And if you know what I'm talking about, you’re probably from North Carolina or connected to someone who is. You might even be from Surry County, because fruit sonkers are “the signature dessert” of that region. There's a even a North Carolina Sonker Trail where you can travel from place to place and try sonkers baked by people who have been making them for generations.Jump to Recipe
North Carolina Sonkers
The North Carolina Sonker Trail is on my bucket list, as there’s much to be learned about this dessert. I realize having read about sonkers that mine is not traditional, but on the other hand it still fits the definition of a fruit pie baked in a pan. It’s also fair to call it an apple cobbler or an apple sonker with a batter. Traditionally, sonkers are made with a pastry dough and served with a “milk dip” which seems similar to a créme anglaise or sauce that gets poured over bread pudding. But honestly, the milk dip doesn't appeal to me as much as straight up vanilla ice cream or even whipped cream, so that's what I've been using. I'll try the milk dip version when I hit the Sonker Trail.
Apple Sonker for a Small Baking Dish
This version feeds maybe 3 to 4 people. I basically designed it to fit this small rectangular Le Creuset outlet casserole dish from Home Goods. It's a little over a quart. You could make it in a similar size dish or use a large loaf pan like I did back when I started making Loaf Pan Blackberry Cobbler and Peach Cobbler. The beauty of these fruit desserts is you don't have to be too focused on dish size and capacity like you do with brownies and such.
Apple Sonker Sweetness
I wish I could say I made this once and it was perfect, but after making the spontaneous sonker to use up the four apples, I had to go buy more apples and re-test it with less sugar and butter. My original version was tasty, but extremely sweet. I made it again with 2 tablespoons of sugar and it was just right. I think you could even go with less or use an alternative sweetener if needed. The kind of apples you use makes a difference too. I went with a mixture Granny Smith, Honey Crisp and a Gala because they were on sale. The Gala was a bit mushy, but it's okay to have one mushy apple in the mix. We loved this dessert and I'm looking forward to making more sonkers in different flavors.
Small Apple Sonker
- 1 6 cup capacity casserole dish or wide loaf pan
- 3 cups peeled and roughly chopped apples (400 grams after being peeled, chopped, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons sugar (can use more or less)
- 1 pinch salt (can omit if using salted butter)
- ¾ teaspoon apple pie spice or just cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon butter, cut into thin slices or bits
- ½ cup all-purpose flour (65 grams)
- ⅓ cup sugar (75 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt or ¼ if using unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup whole milk, luke warm room temp but not ice cold (75 grams)
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and still a little warm
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready a 1 quart baking dish or a casserole or wide loaf pan.
- Mix together the apples, sugar, salt (if using unsalted butter) and spices. Spread in the dish and scatter the butter bits on top.
- Put the apple mixture in the preheated oven for 15 minutes while you make the topping.
- About 10 minutes after you put the apples in the oven, prepare the topping. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and vanilla and stir until blended, then add the butter. Stir just until blended.
- Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
- Remove the apple mixture from the oven oven and spoon the batter over the warm apples, spreading it gently so it just partially covers the apples. Return to the oven and bake for another 35 minutes or until the topping appears baked and has a few brown spots on it. This could take a little longer depending on your oven.
- Let cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm. Alternatively, you can let cool, then chill it and re-heat.
- For the apples, I used about 4 Honey Crisp that were on their way out. They were very sweet and ¼ cup of sugar was too much. I tested again with a mixture of XX and XX and used only 2 tablespoons of sugar and it was just right.
- Apple Pie Spice -- Only used because I had some leftover homemade apple pie spice from the holidays. A little cinnamon or a blend of your favorite spices would be just fine.
- Salted Butter -- If you use unsalted, be sure to throw in a pinch of salt to cut the sweet. I've been using salted because I bought some on sale
- Flour -- Regular all-purpose. You could probably use self-raising and cut out the baking powder and salt.
- Milk -- Whole milk! Then again, I'm sure 2% or maybe even 1% would work. I only buy whole milk for baking or powder (also for baking).