Best Michigan Apples for Baking
| 4 min read
Apples are hands-down Michigan’s most popular fruit when it comes to what’s being grown on family farms and commercial orchards across the state. While some farmers choose to grow row upon row of unique, heirloom varieties of apples, most orchards that sell to the public grow several more well-known varieties. Among them, you have apples that are great for fresh eating, others that are delicious when cooked down into a sauce, and still others that are seen as the best apples for baking.
Personal preference is key when it comes to picking what kind of apple to use for baking. But there are some things that make certain apple types better in pies, quick breads, strudels and other baked goods. Some of this is tied to flavor, but also texture.
Michigan’s apple industry is one of the most valuable fruit crops in the state, with its annual impact estimated at up to $900 million, according to the Michigan Ag Council. It sells more apples sliced for pies and fresh-cut for eating than any other state. And unlike other fresh-picked fruits, apples can be stored for months when kept at the right temperature. This means most varieties can be used fresh for baking almost any time of the year.
What makes an apple good for baking?
Any fresh apple can be used for baking, but not all of them will offer the same degree of flavor when baked into a pie or chopped and added to a breakfast bread. The best kinds of apples to use when baking are any variety that has a firm texture and a slightly tart flavor, according to guidelines shared by the Food Network. Some apples will soften into a mushy or watery layer when put into an oven. These are not the right kind to use. You want the sliced or chopped apples to soften in an oven’s heat, but not completely lose their shape or texture. Varieties to avoid include Red Delicious, Gala and Fuji.
Michigan apples that are best for baking. We’re fortunate in Michigan to have several types of apples that not only hold up well for baking, but taste great, too. The choice often comes down to personal preference on flavor. Some apple varieties are sweet like candy while others have a tart-tasting bite. If you have a couple different varieties on hand, sample a slice from each to determine what flavor you’re looking for in your baked goods. Here are some of the best-tasting baking apples grown here, according to the Michigan Apple Commission.
Northern Spy: If you’ve heard your grandmother say “Spys are for pies,” this hefty apple is the one she was referring to. Sometimes bigger than your hand, these creamy and light-skinned apples are a clear winner, often called a baker’s dream. The flavor is tart and complex. They can be cooked into a sauce, but are fantastic when peeled, sliced and mounded into a pie crust. Look for this apple in October and November, as it’s late to ripen. It is an antique variety so it likely won’t be available in grocery stores. Look for them at farmer’s markets, U-pick orchards and roadside stands.
Rome: These medium-sized red rounds look like the picture-perfect apple. Slice or chop them and their structure will hold up well for baking. They are sweet, but also mild.
McIntosh: These can be eaten fresh or used for baking because of their delicious, sweet flavor. Sliced apples do tend to have a higher water content and can turn a bit mushy under high heat. If used for pies, these will make a very soft filling.
Ida Red: These beauties are great all-around apples for baking. They have a tangy taste and a crisp texture, which allows them to hold up well when cooked.
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