1. First, make life a little easier for yourself and microwave your squash for 3-4 minutes to soften it before attempting to slice it in half. This step is optional, of course - but it certainly makes the process easier! Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 375°F/190°C.
Next, cut off the stem, slice the squash length-wise, and then scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Lay your squash flesh side down on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Bake in your pre-heated oven for about 30-45 minutes or until very fork tender and the skin is shiny, wrinkly and browned in some places. Set aside for now.
In a large skillet or stock pot, heat oil over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds, Add the onion, celery, carrot, and apple and sauté for about 5 minutes or until soft.
Add the garlic, herbs, spices, salt, and pepper and sauté for about one minute.
Add the stock, water and maple syrup. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then turn off the heat.
If using an immersion blender, simply add 2 cups cooked butternut squash to the pot and blend until smooth. If using a traditional blender, carefully transfer the mixture to a blender using a ladle until you can safely pour the rest in by picking up the pan. Add the squash and blend on high until smooth. For a slightly thinner soup, add 1/4-1/2 cup of additional hot water and blend again, (we prefer it on the thicker side in our home!) Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
When ready to serve, ladle your smooth soup into a bowl, add any toppings you like, such as homemade croutons (or chopped toast!), toasted pumpkin seeds / pepitas, a small pinch of nutmeg, or a generous pinch of dried cranberries. But honestly, this soup is so good you really don't need any toppings at all.