It’s now the season for buying and picking apples, one of the most versatile fruits and the source of some of the most comforting, traditional British desserts.
The best apples for desserts
Bramleys are the classic British dessert apple, famous for their tartness that works so well to add depth of flavour to sweet desserts. The Bramley also develops an appealing fluffy, golden texture when cooked to keep cakes soft and moist. They are much larger than your average Granny Smith, with slightly rough, green and red skin.
Bramleys are the best apples for cakes and dessert dishes but also for chutneys, apple sauce and to make cider. Quite simply, the centre can be cored and replaced with dried fruit, then the whole baked and served with cream, ice cream or custard.
However they are to be used, Bramley apples are usually prepared the same way – peeled and sliced, then sprinkled with some lemon juice or other acidic ingredient to stop the flesh browning. They can then be stewed or simply put in a pie or cake recipe as they are with a little sugar for cooking.
Using dessert apples for cooking has become quite fashionable, the result being a slightly drier texture but more intense flavour. If you prefer to stick to the traditional cooking apple, try branching out with the varieties ‘Lord Derby’, ‘Scotch Dumpling’ or ‘Grenadier.’
The best apples for eating
Known as dessert apples, old favourites such as home grown Discovery, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Worcester Pearmain are being crowded out by imports. Gala, Braeburn and Pink Lady, with their crunchy, sweet flesh and smooth skins are more popular in the UK now. However with such a diversity of textures and flavours, it’s worth buying apples in a few varieties you may not have thought of.
Granny Smiths are famous for their juicy tang and crisp flesh. The younger the apple, the tarter the flavour. While they are more usually an eating apple, the flesh is firm enough to make an interesting change to Bramleys when used in cooking. Granny Smiths are also considered among the healthiest of eating apples, with higher levels of nutrients such as fibre, potassium and vitamin C than other varieties.
This early in the season, see if you can find a Worcester Pearmain, a small, sweet apple with a strawberry-like flavour that’s an old British favourite. Another is St Edmund’s Pippin, which has a russet golden skin flecked with red. Its flesh is sweet and juicy with an almost nutty flavour.