Fresh Ontario apples can be eaten right out-of-hand as a midday snack or prepared in literally hundreds of different ways. Bushels of these shiny, red beauties can be found at farmers’ markets at this time of year, just waiting for someone to turn them into warm, spicy baked goods. It’s simply instinctive to think about freshly baked apple pies, apple blossoms and tart apple cider at this time of the year.
Apple pie is the benchmark by which all other apple desserts are measured. It seems that every family I know has that go to person who’s admired for baking the best apple pies. Many make the traditional two-crusted version, some are streusel topped, others claim their “mile high” apple pies are indisputably the best, and a few are loyal to their Frenchstyle apple tarts with seductively wafer thin apples layered circularly around the crust.
Large families, like mine, make apple pies in large baking sheets and cut them into squares in an attempt (albeit futile) to have them last longer. There’s also “the mother of all apple pies”: the ones with more apples and less crust. There is a woman I know who claims her apple pie is so high she has to carefully balance the apples in the shell before putting the top crust on top.
If you’re on a quest for the ultimate apple pie recipe, don’t overlook all the other apple-packedtemptations along the way. For example, if you’re not very confident with your pastry-making skills or if you’re just plain in a hurry, apple crisps, crumbles and brown betties are practically foolproof, and they’ll give any fancy apple pie a run for its money in the flavour department. All of these desserts start with juicy chunks of diced apples flavoured with sugar, cinnamon and a few other optional spices like nutmeg and cloves.
To make a crisp or a crumble, all it takes is a mixture of oats, butter, sugar and flour to make a mouthwatering topping that will turn deep brown and crunchy as the apples get soft and bubbly. Serve an apple crisp, crumble or brown betty under a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream or a healthy dollop of whipped cream. You can spoon apple crisp into small plastic containers; they make an easy and appreciated school lunchbox treat. Choose your apples wisely. The most common choice for pies: Courtland, Northern Spy, Jonagold, Golden Delicious and Winsap. Some expert bakers claim their secret to an exquisite pie is to use a blend of different kinds of apples in one pie.
Golden Delicious will hold their shape; Granny Smith adds a tart flavor, and for intensity choose Crispin, Winsap and Jonagold. While there’s no doubt our eyes widen with delight at the thought of enjoying apple baked goods, nothing beats the crisp taste of a juicy apple, just picked and ripe for eating.
Lynn Ogryzlo is a food, wine and travel writer, international award winning author. She can be reached for questions or comments at lynnogryzlo.com.