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Baking apples, also called cooking apples, are used to make a variety of dessert items, including pies, strudels and cobblers. They also can be stewed, fried or made into applesauce for a side dish. The external appearance of baking apples might differ in size and color, but they typically are full-flavored fruits with a firm texture that will retain their shape during the cooking process. A baking apple usually is more tart than sweet when compared to eating apples.
Granny Smith apples are the classic baking apple. This small, light-green apple is very firm and has a tart, tangy taste. These apples are used primarily as baking apples, but they can be eaten fresh. They often are served in slices with a caramel dipping sauce that complements the tart flavor and crisp texture. Granny Smiths are in season in the fall, but they usually are available year-round because of global production.
The Jonathan variety is a red apple that offers a balance of sweetness and tartness. It often is considered a general purpose apple that can be eaten fresh or used for cooking. The Jonathan was first grown in the 1800s in the United States and has become a favorite crop because of a Jonathan apple tree's ability to produce an abundance of fruit soon after planting.
A golden delicious apple is pale to bright-yellow when ripe. It primarily is eaten fresh but can be used as a baking apple even though it loses some of its flavor during the cooking process. The golden delicious was crossed with the Jonathan to create the yellow-and-red Jonagold. This large apple offers the sweetness of a golden delicious while taming the higher acidity found in the Jonathan. Many people consider the Jonagold one of the best baking apples available.
The Rome apple has a bright red appearance but doesn't make a good eating apple. Its taste improves during the cooking process, making it an excellent choice when shopping for baking apples. The Rome is one of the few apples that grows well in areas with warm winters, and it often is grown in countries that are not successful growing other apples.
Cortland apples are a variation of the McIntosh, and both are considered good baking apples. This family of apples is sweet and crisp, providing an excellent texture that is retained during the cooking process. The Cortland is one of the few apples that do not brown quickly when cut, giving the cook plenty of preparation time. These apples generally are grown in colder climates such as upstate New York, Canada and the United Kingdom.
If I'm baking with apples, like a pie or an apple crisp, I'm apt to use a combination. My ideal is a mix of Granny Smiths and Fujis. That gets a good sweet-tart mix and they're available year-round. I use a 2 to 1 ratio of Granny Smith to Fuji. That gets a great apple flavor without it being too tart.
For baking whole apples, I like the Ida Red or a York. Fujis are pretty good for this, too. You want a nice looking apple, with a sturdy structure and good apple-y flavor. In general, these flavors fit the bill.
For eating out of hand, I like Fujis and Galas, along with Braeburns. They're nice and crisp, with a little tartness, but are more on the sweet side.
I'm a sucker for Jonathans, for baking or eating. They're crisp and tart without being sour. I think they're about the perfect apple.
The Arkansas black apple is great for cooking. It's a hard apple and doesn't lose its shape when you bake it, either in a pie, or as a whole baked apple.
The worst baking apple is probably a red delicious. They're beautiful apples, but they're not very sturdy. In fact, the only cooking they're good for is to make applesauce because they're just kind of mushy.
Jonagolds are good, too, though. They're a little more sturdy than the delicious apple, because of the Jonathan side of the family. They're a good eating apple, too.
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