The 5 Best Apples for Baking in 2021

If you didn’t bake before you probably do now, at least every so often. The pandemic has pushed us indoors where we wrestle with our thoughts, work remotely, and take on any number of hobbies.

A decidedly popular one of those hobbies is baking and one of the practice’s favorite ingredients is apples. Pairing baking and apples can yield incredible pies, delicious breakfast pastries, cobblers, fritters, savory tarts, chicken dishes, stuffing for your holiday turkey, 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. So scoot past the Red and Golden Delicious piles and look for these great apples the next time you throw the apron on.

Granny Smith

Granny Smith Apples with Cheese
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 to 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

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

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

Sweetango Apple on Table
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

Cameo Apples in 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

Jamie Oliver Fruit Crumble Edited

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°F.
  2. Peel and core the apples, then quarter and chop into 1-inch chunks.
  3. Place in a saucepan on a 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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