Apples. You eat them every day (if you’re trying to keep the doctor away). That’s because some sort of apple is typically available in our supermarkets 365 days a year. It’s easy to reach out and grab whatever apples are featured without giving the variety a lot of thought. Which is a good thing because the most popular way to eat apples is out of hand and raw. Top of the heap apples best enjoyed this way include: Honey Crisp, Braeburn, Granny Smith, and McIntosh. Where I live Fuji can also be had without too much effort. I love apples and I’m happy for their wide availability.
However, when I’m cooking with apples I want to choose the best apples for the job. The best apples for baking, the best apples for braising, the best apples for sauce, etc. My general rules of thumb is this: for sweet apple recipes like pies and cakes I choose tart apples such as Granny Smith and for savory preparations I choose sweeter apples like Honey Crisp, and my favorite all-purpose apple (snacking, sweet baking or savory cooking) is Braeburn.
Choosing the “best of” anything is at best murky. I usually roll my eyes when we bloggers bestow titles like “the best” on anything (and everything). I figure we’re either being lazy writers or SEO whores. However since I am both a lazy writer and an SEO whore, I will say this – when it comes to cooking there are some things that are just plain proven fact – water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, cooking bacon starts in a cold pan, and buttercream frosting requires magical skills that I do not possess. Most of the rest of those supposed cooking “rules” are just personal preference.
Well almost most of the rest. When it comes to choosing the best apples for baking, the truth is some of the information is proven fact and some of it is personal preference.
Best Apples for Baking
As I said, Granny Smith is my default apple for baking sweet desserts. It’s crisp and tart and stays that way even under high heat. It may seem counterintuitive to choose a tart apple for a sweet treat. However, I think a nicely acidic apple gives the sugar in a recipe balance. That’s an example of personal preference. My own personal preference.
Texture however falls in to the category of rule. The rules and standards of apple pie demand that the fruit not be mushy. McIntosh makes nice apple sauce because it’s a soft apple. However, they aren’t the best apples for baking – they make a mushy apple pie. There are other crisp beauties that work as equally well as Granny Smith. Braeburn, Cortland, Honey Crisp and Rome Beauty all get high marks. So these apples are often included on the best apples for baking blogger lists. If you’re unsure what your favorite apple for baking is try a combination of these apples. In my opinion that’s “the best”.
However, just when you think the rules are decided I have more information for you. This information falls under personal preference. There are plenty of apple varieties out there that are considered heirloom or regional. So I suggest you taste what is available in your area raw and out of hand, then make up your own mind. Like I said personal preference can be murky. GREG