Baking 101: 'Tis the season for apples

Baking 101: 'Tis the season for apples

Apple season is here and whether you’re picking your own or buying them fresh from the market, now is the time to make the most of season and the many varieties available.

In fact, with so many apples this time of the year, preserving them and knowing which apples to use for different recipes will cut down on waste and best maximize the taste and results in a recipe.

Picking the right apples is not just about variety. Apples in season will be much juicier than apples that have been stored for months. Look for apples that are fresh and bright in color, unless they are a yellow or green apple.

Working with apples is a time-sensitive situation in a few different ways. First is general shelf life. If kept properly in a refrigerator around 34 degrees, apples can last for a few months, although the taste and quality will decrease over longer periods of time.

Another time issue is, as apples are peeled and prepared for use, they will start to turn brown, become mushy and lose flavor. This is called oxidation and can be prevented by adding in something acidic to water in a bowl with the apples.

One of the first things most people like to gravitate to is apple pie. It seems to be a fairly simple, quick solution to using up a fair amount of apples. Apple pie, apple crisp and most other baked apple recipes should use apples that will hold their shape and be firm. Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, Gala and Granny Smith are great apples to use with these recipes.

Make sure to peel them ahead of time — the skin sometimes becomes tough and will not break down during baking. A nice guideline to follow is that typically an apple pie takes about 5 to 6 cups of apples for a 9 or 10-inch pie. About three medium sized apples will yield 2 to 2 ½ cups of chopped/sliced apples.

Whether you cook them ahead of time or leave them raw depends on how you plan to use them.

To make apple pie from cooked apples, cook the apples and sugar in boiling water for five to seven minutes. It makes the apples a little more tender. If you like the apples in your apple pie to be falling apart, cooking them first helps achieve that goal. The water from the cooking is thickened with cornstarch to make the filling that surrounds the apples in the pie. In general, a cooked apple pie is juicier and softer than a raw apple pie.

Apples used raw in recipes will often have a starch mixed with the apples in order to thicken up the batter or pie filling from the extra juice that is extracted. In the oven, the juices of the apples will mingle with the sugar and flour as the pie bakes. Together they will thicken and make the juicy filling that surrounds the apples in the pie.

An apple dumpling is like a big whole apple, apple pie. Dough is rolled out and placed around an apple that has had the center removed and is not sliced. Always place the seam side down, so the dough does not pull away from the apple during baking. Making an apple pie-type mixture to place down the center will help with the juices, while also having sugar to sweeten the apple. A great way for the apples to hold their form and not collapse is to place them in muffin tins. This will provide some structure for the soon to be soft apple.

Every apple has a use, its just deciding what that is and what your taste buds are in the mood for. From applesauce to apple pie, from breakfast muffins to dessert, they can fill your day, all day and in so many ways.

Amber Clay is a resident of the Mechanicsburg area. After graduating with her degree from the Culinary Institute of America, her food path started at the Hotel Hershey and continued on with teaching.

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