Last weekend, one of our Recipe Corner editors went on an apple adventure with her toddler. Here’s what happened:
On Sunday, we drove out to the country and on the way back passed a road that led to a road that led to MacQueen’s Apple Orchard. I could feel my son lift higher in his carseat.
"Doughnuts," he said, dreamily, definitively, as if he’d just caught a whiff, as if he’d been there more than once. Fritters, I thought, and we wound our way happily there.
Such is the power of apples. In so many homes across the world, autumn is apple season. Doughnuts, fritters, pies, cakes, muffins, galettes, tarts, and turnovers; so many hundreds of names, delicious in themselves, for apples, flour and sugar, not to mention the butter and cider.
We bypassed the trees and made straight for the shop, which was buzzing with the thrill of the season. Only three days in, and a barrel cider spout was already broken from overuse.
The line for the bakery was long. As we waited, I found myself turning abashedly away from the stacks on rows of apple varieties – nothing more, to me, than a litany of pretty names. I should know you better, I thought, standing humbly before the appley display, a very poor pilgrim indeed.
And so, days later, even guiltier now for ignorant delight in the fritter, I sought teaching from the masters. Here, distilled, are bits of wisdom:
- Go local. There’s no more maddening invective, when you’re listening to a California native at a card table in Minnesota in the middle of winter, but when it comes to apples, it really is as easy as pie. Because apples are generally hearty and amenable to storage (nearly always, the apples you buy all the way to July are the previous year’s harvest), even many big-box stores carry apples from farms in the area.
- Know your apple types. Jonagolds are the go-to for pies, with a few Granny Smiths tossed in for nuance. Of course, everyone has an opinion; this one is solid in number of recommendations. You can still invite the grandmother who insists on diabetic Gala apples over for dessert - just have a pint of vanilla ice cream on hand.
- Don't let apple pie intimidate you. Even the seasoned experts whose pies you wouldn’t dare imitate say that jumping in is the way to get wet. (Surprise!) You don’t have to make your crust a day in advance; you don’t have to know how to spell pate brisee – or even to say it. It will help, however, to know that shortcrust doesn’t mean a crust cut short.
- Be creative, but don’t go crazy. Apples are already versatile. You don’t need to prove it with apple-strawberry-cranberry-anise-fennel compote with nutmeg crème fraiche. Take the latest, wackiest food craze website with a grain of salt.
Here are a few original apple recipes that follow our guidelines to the letter. (We used tart Granny Smiths for the savory muffins, pies and bruschetta, and sweet Galas for the apple bowls and stuffed chicken.)
This mouthwatering recipe can go toe-to-toe with any gourmet restaurant's stuffed chicken. Crisp apples, shallots, and sage are sauteed in butter before being wrapped and baked inside succulent chicken breasts.
Tart apples and pomegranate seeds create a gorgeous topping for sliced French bread that's smothered in creamy Brie cheese. A final drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chopped walnuts takes this sweet and savory appetizer to the next level.
This healthy alternative to cupcakes is a project that's so easy, even your kids can help. Hollowed out apples are the perfect nesting place for Greek yogurt mixed with peanut butter and maple syrup.
Sweet apples are simmered with bourbon and cinnamon before being folded into sugary wonton wrappers and fried to perfection. These adorable mini pies are crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.