Apples to Apples Crust to Crust

Andy Mueller

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | sept. 2019

Arguably the most versatile fruit in the world, the apple is at home in both sweet and savory dishes, and right now is the time to take advantage. Both economical, as well as elegant, apples are comfortable as an accent to roast pork or wild game, or as the star of the show in a freshly baked pie with a kiss of cinnamon and sugar. All apples have a place in the culinary world, but knowing which apple is best for each purpose is the key to finding the best way to make them shine.

Out of hand, the Red Delicious is fantastic – keep it simple with this one as once it is cooked, the consistency can be a bit grainy and because of its high water content, doesn't work so well in a pie. Once cooked, the water will not let the crust seal, yielding a less than desirable gummy crust. On the other side of the spectrum, the Granny Smith, with its lower water content and tart crunchy texture, makes a beautiful pie with just enough punch on the palate to keep you wanting more.

If a pie is what you want to make, stick to the tart, crunchy apples like Granny Smith, Gala, Braeburn, Fuji and Honey Crisp. With lower water content, and the integrity to stand up to the heat of the oven, these will all bake up perfectly and allow the crust to flake and brown beautifully.

Out of hand, they all work, but I have to give the edge to the Honey Crisp. Tart yet sweet, firm and crunchy, and the chin music after one bite is something few other apples can do. With new varieties appearing at the market almost every year, it can be fun to experiment with different types for different applications. And because there is no "official" worldwide growing season, you can enjoy apples all year long. If there is a season that I equate with apples, it has to be the beginning of fall. There's something about the cinnamon and sugarcoated apples baking in a tender, flaky crust that screams comfort throughout an entire neighborhood.

When looking for the perfect apple, make sure the flesh is firm beneath the skin, there are no blemishes or bruising, and they don't give off a faint "cider" smell which indicates they may be turning. Once you bring them home from the market or grocery store, wash them well, dry them thoroughly and wrap them in paper towels until use. They last a long time in a cool, dark place with proper airflow and temperature. Try this recipe for smoked salmon spread that featured tart apples that will turn some heads at your next tailgate party.

Smoked Salmon Spread with Apples

In a food processor add:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

2 green onions, diced

1/2 cup Honey Crisp apples, peeled, seeded and finely diced

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Pulse the mixture to blend, then add:

3/4 cup smoked salmon, diced

Pulse mixture to blend but do not puree completely; you want a rustic texture, not a smooth puree. Chill for at least an hour and serve with rye crisps or your favorite hearty cracker. Enjoy!

-- Banner photo 'Juicy Apple' by MaxiuB is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Find more of this artist's work at here and a copy of this license at here.

Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club 'Galley 57' in Bellevue.

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