When my brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Donna Conforti, gifted me with over ten pounds of heirloom Granny Smith and Idared apples, picked fresh from the trees on their Towanda, Pa., property, I was in apple baking heaven. Between their tart/sweet flavor and their ability to keep their shape during cooking, the apples would be ideal for making a pie, or even a breakfast strata.
Incredibly versatile, with nearly 100 varieties grown commercially in the United States, some apples are better suited than others for a particular purpose. Red Delicious apples, for instance, are perfect for eating out of hand, but not much else. McIntosh apples, outstanding for snacking or making applesauce, are too soft for making dumplings, and Gala apples, though terrific in salads, becomes rubbery when baked. But, for pies and other baking applications, apples like Granny Smith, Idared and Golden Delicious excel.
Because of their crisp texture, these apples can also be precooked before placing in a pie shell, a method that not only concentrates the apple’s flavor, but also helps to minimize the dreaded gap that sometimes occurs beneath the top crust of your pie and the filling – something that happens due to the shrinkage of raw apples when they are cooked.
It’s not too late to bake a fresh apple pie for Thanksgiving, or to put together a strata for Thanksgiving Day breakfast, but if you run out of time, don’t worry. An apple a day, on any day, tastes just as sweet.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food columnist with broad experience and interests in the culinary arts. She has resided and worked in the lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.