baking

3 Ways to Use Those Freshly-Picked Apples

From apple pie in a skillet to the elegant French apple tart, we’ve got your autumnal cravings covered.

By America's Test Kitchen | October 12, 2016

Autumn is in full swing, and along with sweater weather—what’s better than sweater weather?—that means sweet, gooey apple desserts. Lots and lots of them.

While the virtues of a warm slice of classic apple pie (served with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream on the side, of course) are unimpeachable, the humble apple is more versatile than all that. Below we list three preparations for apples that aren’t pies (OK, one of them is a pie, but it’s made in a skillet!) that you can make to impress friends and family this autumn.

French Apple Tart

A classic French apple tart is little more than apples and pastry, but such simplicity means that imperfections like tough or mushy apples, unbalanced flavor, and sodden crust are hard to hide. In our recipe a quick and buttery pat-in-pan dough bakes to a shortbread-like texture that gives the tart a sturdy base. For intense fruit flavor, we pack the tart with a whopping 5 pounds of Golden Delicious apples. We cook half into a concentrated puree, which is made more luxurious with butter and apricot preserves, and we slice and parcook the remaining apples and use them to adorn the top with concentric circles. A thin coat of preserves and a final run under the broiler provide an attractively caramelized finish and a distinctly European flair. 

Apple Upside-Down Cake

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Precooking some of the apples before placing them in the bottom of the cake pan gave us plentiful fruit infused with caramel flavor for our best apple upside-down cake recipe. For a coarse-crumbed cake that wouldn’t buckle under the weight of the fruit, we used the quick-bread method, in which we melt the butter and mix the liquid and dry ingredients separately before combining them. The melted butter introduces less air into the batter, creating a sturdier crumb. 

Skillet Apple Pie

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For an everyday dessert, a good skillet apple pie recipe should take a no-frills approach. We made our fruit filling juicy and flavorful by combining apples with cider that we thickened with cornstarch and sweetened with maple syrup. To make sure that the apples were cooked by the time the pastry was golden, we caramelized them on the stovetop before topping them with the pastry and baking the pie in the oven.

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