Over 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States, and of those, only about 100 are grown commercially. This means that the best apple for baking in your region might be different than the best apple halfway across the country. But there are some basic guidelines you can follow to make the right choices.
First, you need to taste as many apples as you can and get a good sense of their flavor profiles. Tart apples can be great for baking, since they help to balance out the sweetness from added sugar. But an apple that is too tart can be overpowering. Look for somewhat neutral apples that are neither too tart or too sweet, with prominent “apple-y” flavor so the fruit can really shine. Galas and Fijis are good examples.
In terms of texture, most people want an apple that won’t fall apart when it’s baked, which means it needs to be firm and crisp. A good way to test an apple you haven’t tasted is to press your thumb against the skin of the apple. If it doesn’t make a dent, it’s probably a great baking apple. If it does make a dent, well, buy it and eat it, but maybe don’t bake with it.
Of course, it’s important to note that everyone likes different textures and flavors in their pastries and baked goods, so these are not rules so much as suggestions. If you like a pie filling that’s soft and applesauce-like, use a softer apple! If you’re not sure, and your apple falls apart in your Apple Pie Scones, they’ll still taste delicious! We especially love taking advantage of apples unique to whatever region we’re baking in, so experiment with farmers’ market finds, because your treats will be amazing either way.
Basically, what we’re saying is: let your apple choices be the least stressful part of your day!
If it helps, these are some commercially grown apples that we think you can always count on for great flavor and texture:
- Golden Delicious
- Granny Smith
- Ida Red
- Northern Spy