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What makes a cooking apple... and 52 recipes

October 02, 2013|By Noelle Carter

You know it's fall when all those colorful varieties of apples start showing up in the market. It's hard not to want to snag a few of each to try out in the kitchen. But how do you tell which apples are best for a specific use? Which apples are best for eating, and which ones are best for cooking and baking? 

Food editor Russ Parsons explored the often perplexing apple question in a column he did on heirloom apples  just a few autumns ago:

"The world of apples is supposedly divided cleanly in two: cookers and eaters. But does that mean you can't eat a cooker? Or cook an eater? And what makes a "cooking" apple anyway.

RECIPES: 52 recipes using apples from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen

"Generally, the apples that cook or bake best are those that are notably tart (because you're going to add sugar anyway) and that hold together through cooking.

"In my experience, the best apples for cooking are Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Jonathan. But I've also had good luck with Gala, Braeburn, Pink Lady and Fuji. As for the older varieties, there are so many, you're best off asking the farmer.

Russ also did a handy post with tips for choosing different apples, along with choosing, storing and preparation. And continue reading below for a recipe for award-winning apple pie pictured above. It's only one of 52 favorite apple recipes we've compiled, ranging from pancakes to pies to cocktails and everything in-between.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at


Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes plus chilling time

Servings: 8 to 10

Prepared pie crust

3 to 4 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced into large chunks, eighths or tenths.

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 egg, beaten (to use as an egg wash)

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Starting around the outside edge, line the pie crust with apple chunks. Move in concentric circles inward. When you've got the bottom layer covered, mound the rest on top. Go for density without overcrowding.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and lemon zest. Sprinkle the sugar/spice mixture evenly over the top of the apples, then sprinkle over the brown sugar. (Don't worry, it'll all migrate downward.) Cut the butter into tiny chunks and scatter it around, randomly but evenly over the top of the sugar.

4. Put the top crust on, crimp, then cut steam holes and glaze with an egg wash. Chill the pie for 20 minutes or so before baking.

5. Place the pie in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 and bake until the juices are bubbling but the fruit still feels firm (use a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife to reach through a venthole to pierce a piece of apple), an additional 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the pie to a cooling rack.

6. Cool the pie to room temperature before serving. A few hours is fine, even overnight is good. The flavors will blend and mellow, and the juices will have time to solidify.

Each of 10 servings: 364 calories; 4 grams protein; 54 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 16 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 61 mg cholesterol; 31 grams sugar; 187 mg sodium.


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