We can make generalizations about apples. For instance, apples are generally delicious. We generally like to dip them in peanut butter, and we generally like them to be super crispy. But when it comes to the best apples for baking, generalizations are a lot less helpful. When baking with apples, we’re looking for a specific type, for a specific purpose. As soon as your oven get involved, not every apple is created equal.
The best apples for baking keep their structure, which keeps the chunks of fruit from turning into bland pockets of apple mush after spending some time in the oven. Granny Smith apples are generally our go-to baking apple, but in the BA Test Kitchen, we have a few favorites that hold up under heat and balance that perfect sweet-tart flavor just as well if not better. Here are six to keep in mind on your way to the orchard:
Tart with a honeyed sweetness, Jonagolds hold up exceptionally well in the oven. They don’t store well, however, so use them early in the fall at their peak. Make something like braised and brûléed apples with ice cream to give them all the attention they deserve. This sweetness is not to be hidden.
This is our desert-island apple. Its shatteringly crisp texture is guaranteed to hold firm, whether they show up in apple dumplings or an elegant tarte tatin. We wouldn’t blame you if you just ate them straight-up. Like we said, this is the one.
This superbly crisp apple has a concentrated taste and bakes up juicy but not mushy. They’ll do well under heaps of streusel in this yeasted apple coffee cake, using an intense flavor to stand up to a boatload of cinnamon.
Also known as Crispin, this firm-fleshed, less tart option is similar in flavor to a Golden Delicious. But it excels when it comes to structure, keeping more of a solid firmness. Mutsus are great for pies or other recipes that call for gentle cooking.
Intensely flavored with deep cider-y notes, these apples resist breaking down during cooking and deliver great complexity to baked goods. They’ll hold their own against the figs and other fruits in an apple custard.
Pink Lady (or Cripps Pink)
Balanced between sweet, tart, and tannic notes. It will retain its distinct shape when used in something like this apple gingerbread cake with cream.