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Elements / One ingredient, one dish

Crafted from American stock by Japanese breeders, the Fuji has become Japan's favorite apple.

Yet it was virtually unknown in the United States 10 years ago. Since then, the Fuji's crispness, sweetness and size have helped make it a favorite.

In Washington State, where about half of the nation's apples are grown, the Fuji has become the third most popular apple grown, behind only Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.

*The Fuji has too much sugar to make a classic apple pie. But whether eaten out of hand, poached or baked whole, the Fuji's popularity continues to grow.

*Strange fruit: Scientists figured out how to make a Fuji apple taste like a Concord grape -- by soaking it in grape-flavored liquid. The resulting "Grapple" went on sale in 2004.

*In a name: Commonly thought to be named after Japan's famed Mt. Fuji, the apple is actually named after Japan's chief apple-growing area, Aomori Prefecture.The Fuji's broad shoulders and sweetness makes it a favorite for baked apples. Here's a version stuffed with cinnamon-dusted chopped almonds, inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit.

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Honey almond baked apples

4 Fuji apples

3/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/8 cup honey

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon, orange or tangerine zest

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup apple juice

1 teaspoon butter (for foil)

1 pint ice cream

Chocolate syrup (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, mix almonds, honey, sugar, zest and cinnamon. Using a melon baller, scoop out the core and seeds of each apple, leaving the bottom intact. With a sharp knife, score the skin of each along the equator. Arrange cored apples in dish. Pour juice into dish. Spoon filling into apples, letting it spill over the sides if there's enough. Butter a piece of aluminum foil. Tent it over stuffed apples, butter side down so it doesn't stick. Place pan in oven. Remove foil after an hour. Bake until apples are soft and topping is browned, another 20 minutes. Remove ice cream from carton and slice into discs. Place a baked apple on each disc, and drizzle with chocolate syrup, if using.

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