Apples are everywhere this time of year and so are apple recipes. Although all apples are desirable, they aren't interchangeable. For optimal enjoyment, it's important to pick the right apple for the recipe.
For eating fresh out of hand or in salads, crisp juicy apples are best. Flavor — sweet, tart, spicy, acidic — is a matter of personal preference.
For baking, you want an apple that will hold its shape when cooked and that is not too sweet. The best pies, we think, are made with a combination of sweet and tart as well as firm and soft apples.
For cider, spicier, sharper, more acidic apples work best.
For applesauce and apple butter, apples that soften and seemingly melt into themselves are ideal.
The following list includes varieties commonly found in Midwest grocery stores and at roadside stands.
Ambrosia: These sweet apples are best eaten fresh or made into sauces. The flesh is delicate with a honey-sweet flavor. Softens when cooked.
Arkansas Black: These deep dark red, almost blackish apples can be found at farmers markets, roadside stands or local orchards. The texture is extra firm and the flavor tart and bright when first picked and sweetening over time. They make great pies and cider. Holds shape when cooked.
Cripps Pink: This is a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams. It has firm, crisp flesh and a sweet-tart flavor reminiscent of Golden Delicious. It is often sold under the brand name Pink Lady. Holds shape when cooked.
Fuji: This Japanese migrant is super-sweet and crispy. Holds shape when cooked.
Gala: These yellow apples with pink-orange stripes are crispy, juicy and sweet-tart. Softens when cooked.
Honeycrisp: With its firm, crisp flesh and sweeter-than-tart flavor and well-balanced acidity, the Honeycrisp has been gaining popularity in recent years. Holds shape when cooked.
Jonathan: This spicy-sweet, slightly sharp red apple blends well with other varieties and is best used in applesauce or for making cider. Softens when cooked.
SweeTango: This sweet-tart apple is fruity and spicy and holds shape when cooked.
Sources: "The Apple Lover's Cookbook" by Amy Traverso; "Apple: Recipes From the Orchard" by James Rich; "Apples: 50 Tried & True Recipes" by Julia Rutland; and Washington Apples
For a pretty — and pretty easy — pastry treat, these apple and puff pastry roses are hard to beat.
Make: 6 pastries
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large red-skinned apples
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ginger or apple pie spice, or to taste
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 6 muffin cups with paper liners or generously grease with cooking spray.
In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine the lemon juice and 1 cup of water.
Cut the apples in half from stem to blossom and remove the cores. Using a mandonline or slicer, cut the apples into even, paper-thin slices, placing them in the lemon water as you go.
Microwave on 100 percent power for 1-2 minutes or until the apple slices are pliable. Drain well.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon; set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 12-by-10-inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle into six long strips.
Spread each strip of pastry with cream cheese and then sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Working with one strip of pastry at a time, arrange a layer of apple slices, overlapping slightly so that the skin side (curved part) overhangs the edge of pastry and the other edge of the pastry is bare. If desired, add a second layer of apple slices, slightly askew from the first. Fold the bare pastry up over the straight side of the apples. The apples will peek out. Roll the pastry into a spiral to create a rose. Place in a muffin cup, with the "petals" up. Repeat with remaining pastry and apples.
Bake about 30 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden. If you don't use baking liners, remove pastries from pan while still warm — you may need to run the blade of a knife around the edges to release the pastry.
Makes: 4-6 servings.
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon (if using), egg yolk, vanilla and lemon zest until smooth.
Arrange pastry on the parchment-lined baking sheet so the seams/fold lines are running vertically. Cut -inch wide strips from the edge of the pastry to the seam/fold line down both sides of the pastry.
Spread the cream cheese mixture in the center (uncut) portion of the pastry. Sprinkle evenly with apples. Fold the strips over the apples, alternating sides as you go so the strips crisscross to look like a braid. Pinch the top and bottom edges to seal in filling.
Whisk the egg white with a tablespoon of water. Brush egg wash over top of pastry and sprinkle generously and evenly with sugar.
Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from "Apples: 50 Tried and True Recipes" by Julia Rutland
Makes: 6-8 servings.
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tart apples or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into very thin slices
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
3 eggs, divided use
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 sprig thyme (leaves only), finely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie, homemade or purchased
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook for 20-30 minutes or until softened. Add the apples and cook for a few minutes; they should not lose their texture. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature, then add the grated cheese, two of the eggs, cream, thyme and salt and peppers to taste, mixing well. Set aside.
To assemble: Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry.
In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg and moisten the edges of the dough with a bit of the egg.
Add the cheese and onion filling and top with the remaining rolled-out dough, crimping the top and bottom crusts together at the edges. Brush the top crust with the beaten egg. Add decorative slits in the top crust with a sharp paring knife, if desired. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
Recipe adapted from cookbook author Tamasin Day-Lewis via The Washington Post
BROWN BUTTER APPLE BUTTER
Makes: about 5 (8-ounce) jars.
4 pounds, 6 ounces apples such as Gala, Jonathan and/or Cortland, peeled, quartered and cored
2 cups apple cider/juice
3 tablespoons lemon juice
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
Prepare canner, jars and lids.
In a large pot, combine the apples, apple cider and lemon juice. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until apples are very soft.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat until it is golden and takes on a nutty, toffee-like aroma. Immediately pour butter into the bowl of a food processor.
When the apples are ready, add that mixture to the food processor with the butter and puree until smooth and emulsified.
In a large pot, add enough of the sugar to cover the pot bottom and cook, without stirring, over medium-high heat. When the sugar melts and turns amber, stir in a few tablespoons of the remaining sugar. Once it melts and caramelizes, stir in a few tablespoons more. When all the sugar has been transformed into caramel, remove the pot from heat and immediately (and carefully) pour in the hot apple puree. The caramel may seize and solidify, just keep stirring. Return pot to heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often, and cook 15-25 minutes or until mixture is very thick and "sheets" off the spoon.
Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, if necessary, and wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Center lids on jars and screw bands fingertip tight (just until resistance is met). Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner and let cool undisturbed for 24 hours. Canned apple butter will keep unopened in a cool pantry for 3-4 months. Refrigerate after opening.
Recipe adapted from "Preservation Society Home Preserves" by Camilla Wynne