Not every Delicious apple makes the cut.
Pumpkin spice might have been getting all the fall headlines, but apples are really the classic fall flavor—whether you enjoy them raw, candied, or baked into a tasty dessert. But there are so many apple varieties out there, it can be hard to figure out what's going to make your apple pie or baked apple as delicious as possible.
Learn everything you need to know about apple types, and which apples will work best for your favorite fall and winter baking recipes.
Baking Apples vs. Eating Apples
While many apples are great eaten raw and used in a pie, many varieties lean toward one extreme or the other. In general, eating apples tend to be softer in texture and sweeter, while baking apples tend more toward firm, crisp, and tart.
"The most noticeable thing if you use a non-baking apple for a baking project will be the texture," says Erin Jeanne McDowell, author of The Book on Pie. "A lot of eating-out-of-hand apples will turn to mush and juice only when cooked. They can even have a grainy or mealy texture, depending on the variety."
"Flavor can also be impacted. A lot of good baking apples are on the tart side, since sugar will be added to the recipe, whereas a lot of apples we eat out of hand are naturally sweeter."
The Best Baking Apples to Use
It can be fun to experiment with different apple varieties—and many bakers have their own preferences. McDowell favors Honeycrisp or Cosmic Crisp (a cross of Honeycrisp and Enterprise).
"They have a lot of juicy, tart flavor with the right amount of sweetness—and they retain their shape during baking so they still have some bite."
This classic New England apple is a baking favorite, with a sweet-tart flavor and a juicy, yet crisp texture. (It's also great for eating, if you want an all-around apple.)
Braeburns have an even firmer texture than Baldwin's, but are slightly less juicy—perfect for some pies, if you don't want the filling to be too liquid.
These baking apples are great for pies and pastries, and tend not to brown as quickly as other apple types.
Galas are a bit of a controversial baking apple. Some experts recommend them more for salads and eating, while McDowell and other pros love them for baking. (We're partial to them for using in a caramelized onion and apple tart.)
The name doesn't lie: These are a delicious fruit with a sweet, buttery texture that's often a staple for use in apple pies. (We love it for our old-fashioned apple pie recipe.)
Crisp and tart, Granny Smith apples hold their shape well and when used in recipes that call for sugar, ensure that your apple pie or crisp doesn't become too sweet.
This ultra-popular apple type is a bit softer and sweeter than some traditional baking apples, but still maintains enough crispness to use it for baking cakes, pies, and crisps.
A hybrid of the Golden Delicious and Jonathan varieties, consider this sweet, yet crisp apple for baking.
These versatile apples are a happy medium, featuring a sweet-tart flavor and a texture that will break down a bit for a softer filling for pies and cakes.
Pink Lady Apples
These super-crisp and tart apples are another all-purpose apple, perfect for snacking or baking. (And like Cortlands, they tend not to brown as quickly as other apples.)
Apple Recipe Tips
Look for softer apples for certain apple recipes.
McDowell recommends leaning more toward a softer, eating apple that'll result in a smooth, creamy finish. "If I'm making something like apple butter or applesauce, I'm looking for an apple more prone to breaking down. This could be really any apple that isn't deemed a 'good baking apple'—even flavorful, out-of-hand apples like McIntosh."
Stick with one or two kinds of apples for a recipe.
It can be tempting to throw in a few different kinds of apples to create a unique flavor profile for your pie. But McDowell says the best thing is to keep it simple. "I typically use only one kind of apples—but if I do mix and match, I usually use just one or two apples that are more prone to breaking down. This way, I get the blend of crisp, toothsome baking apples that hold their shape, surrounded by some saucier mixture, also flavored and created by apples."
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