The 5 Best Apples for Baking Your Favorite Fall Treats

Six apples waiting to be picked from a tree.

Concocting delectable meals from your kitchen is a whimsical experience. So, if you’re looking to expand your culinary horizons, try baking— a popular and therapeutic hobby. One of the practice’s favorite ingredients is apples. Pairing baking and apples can yield incredible pies, hearty breakfast pastries, savory tarts, and more.

With the rise of hard cider, there’s a greater apple awareness than ever in this country. More and more varieties are coming online, prized for their unique flavors, textures, and ability to handle the oven. But choose carefully. Some types of apples are versatile baking ingredients, while others are meant for sauces and fillings. Below are the best apples for celebrating apple season and baking your favorite fall treats.

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Granny Smith

Granny Smith Apples with cheese on a wooden cutting board.
Shari's Berries/Flickr

The undeniable champion especially when working with desserts, the Granny Smith apple brings tremendous crispness and zip to the table. The tart nature of the fruit beautifully offsets the sweetness inherent in things like pie, scones, even donuts. And the firmness of the apple stands up to the abuse of cooking quite well, meaning you don’t have to worry much about the integrity of your fruit.

Honeycrisp

A closeup of Honeycrisp Apple in orchard.
Andrew/Flickr

Devised by the University of Minnesota in the 1960s, the Honeycrisp didn’t hit the supermarket produce section until the 90s. It has since become incredibly popular, an apple beloved for its sweet flavor and often substantial size. These apples are tasty on their own and perhaps the most versatile when it comes to baking, great in everything from chicken pot pies to muffins.

Pink Lady

A closeup of Pink Lady Apple.
Veganbaking.net/Flick

A real eye-catcher in the apple field, the Pink Lady tends to have a dazzling mixture of skin colors, fading from greenish-yellow to pink and red. Also known as Cripp’s Pink, it offers an equal mix of sweetness and acid. The flavor is fairly mild so they’re best for recipes where you want some apple effect but perhaps you don’t want it to steal the show.

Sweetango

A Sweetango Apple placed on a piece of cloth.
Isabelle Boucher/Flickr

A cross between Honeycrisp and Zestar! apples, the Sweetango is extra crunchy, with a hint of grassiness and spice to accompany a bit of both sweetness and tartness. Its flavor profile does especially well with any baking that involves some cinnamon, or other thawing spices like clove or cardamom. They’re also great if you like a more rustic style of applesauce.

Cameo

A sign that says "Cameo" attached on a Cameo apple tree in an orchard.
camknows/Flickr

This apple was discovered by chance in Washington (fitting, as it’s the apple state) in the late 1980s. It’s known for its stripy exterior and fruity flavor that can show a hint of pear. They’re not nearly as firm as the rest of this pack, so a Cameo is best used for backing things where shape doesn’t really matter. Consider this apple as your go-to for sauces, reductions, and fillings.

Classic Apple Crumble

A bowl of classic apple crumble beside a spoon on a wooden table.

(By Jamie Oliver)

This recipe from Jamie Oliver is, as he describes it, the humblest crumble he knows. That doesn’t mean it lacks at all in terms of flavor or presentation so try it out next time you’re baking with apples. It serves eight and takes less than an hour to knock out.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds mixed apples, (Jamie likes Bramley, we suggest Granny Smith)
  • 2/3 cups golden caster sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, (cold)
  • 3.5 oz. plain flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel and core the apples, then quarter and chop into 1-inch chunks.
  3. Place in a saucepan on medium heat with 3.5-ounces of sugar and a few fine gratings of lemon zest.
  4. Pop the lid on and cook for 5 minutes, or until the apples have softened. Remove the heat and leave to cool a little.
  5. Meanwhile, cube the butter and place in a mixing bowl with the flour. Rub together with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs, then scrunch in the remaining sugar to add a little texture.
  6. Transfer the apples to a baking dish and sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Delicious served with vanilla custard.

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