It’s getting chilly outside and a nice warm apple crisp might be just what the doctor ordered. Looking through the magazines out on the stand, you’d certainly get that idea; there isn’t a single issue that doesn’t have some sort of apple or pear dessert featured.
But just choosing any old type of apple or pear for the tart or crisp won’t give you the best results. Do a little homework and learn which variety of apple or pear is best for that type of dessert you want to make. Consider these three elements to these fall fruits:
- Which exact variety is the recipe specifically asking for?
If the pie is asking for Granny Smith apples, don’t use the tangos that might be on sale. Some apples are more starchy than others, while some are more mealy and will fall apart when baked.
If the recipe calls for two cups of “thinly sliced apples”, you have to use the ones that will hold up well on a thin slice, not to mention under steam, and in cooking.
- Could there be substitutions if the specific item is not available?
If the recipe calls for Fuji apples, for example, could you use the Ginger Gold variety instead? No. That variety doesn’t hold up to baking well. If you need substitutions, spend a few minutes to research which varietal can step in to fill the order if you can’t get your hands on the specific variety requested in the recipe.
In this case, use Rome or Golden Delicious apples in place of Fuji. The flavor would be different, but the texture would be what you are looking for.
The same goes for pears when cooking with them. I just poached pears in a port wine reduction. Delicious. But not any old type of pear will work.
- Know the peak times for the fruit so you can get it at its most ripe and delicious.
Just as Champagne grapes are only in season in May in certain parts of the world, know that certain pears are in season for only a few weeks. Buying a fruit out of season is not only costly in terms of money, but also costly in that it could throw your recipe off, costing you the entire dessert because it just won’t taste right.
There is nothing worse than serving blueberry pie in the spring when the berries are not in season and the flavor profile is not there.
There are exotic varieties of fruits that come into season and are in the store during their peak times so be sure to try some of them.
When it comes to cooking with fruit, don’t take the easy way out. We live for this change in the weather, the crispness in the air and the long-lost friend of a comforting fall dessert. Give it a moment of research and reflection, and watch your guests eyes show their appreciation.
Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Comments on this column are welcome at email@example.com.