If you’ve ever made a dessert with apples, you’ll know that not all varieties bake equally. Some hold up beautifully under heat, retaining their texture and taste. Others melt into applesauce, leaving behind a pile of watery mush in their wake.
To avoid soggy baked apples, it helps to pay attention to a couple of factors in the fruit you’re working with. Tart and acidic apples tend to hold up the best in cooking, retaining their shape and a firmness in their flesh. That acid helps draw out the natural pectin in the fruit, encouraging it to become thick, and gel-like, giving you that sort of wobbly but solid texture you’re going after.
In addition to acidity, you should check out the raw texture of the apple. Cottony, grainy, or soft apples like Red Delicious and McIntosh have a lot of air hidden within their structure; put them in the oven and they just kind of collapse into themselves. But a dense, firmer apple will keep its shape and texture and stay in recognizable slices or chunks.
So which apples score high on both acidity and firmness? Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, the two most commonly recommended baking apples, naturally do. They will stay intact even through intensive baking and heat, although their tartness can feel a little one-note. Pink Lady and Honeycrisp apples also retain their shape nicely, with more sweet and fruit-forward flavors. Mild Galas are another balanced option, equal parts tart and sweet, although they can turn out a bit on the mealy side.
Regardless of which apple you go with, there’s no shortage of dessert recipes that will help you put them to use. Here are eleven to try out during the height of apple season.
1. Apple Dapple Cake
Apple cakes don’t have to be complicated and fanciful. Here, chunks of apple and pecan are mixed into a basic batter that comes together easily. The whole thing is then baked in a tube pan and given a dripping brown sugar glaze. Get our Apple Dapple Cake recipe.
2. Apple, Cranberry, and Cherry Galette
Keep it free form: this loose, hand-shaped tart packs in a gloriously messy heap of apples, cranberries, and cognac-soaked cherries. Get our Apple, Cranberry, and Cherry Galette recipe.
3. Spiced Apple Cupcakes
Apple cupcakes with a sugary maple frosting: the only thing that could make these treats more autumnal is a cup of cider and a horse-drawn hayride. Get our Spiced Apple Cupcakes recipe.
4. Fresh Apple Pie
Apple pie should let the fruit take the starring role, calling for little more than a good, flaky crust and dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to make it complete. Get our Fresh Apple Pie recipe.
5. Caramel, Apple, and Cinnamon Breakfast Casserole
Prefer to start your mornings with something sweet? This casserole has a breakfast-appropriate bread pudding that’s topped with gooey, sticky dulce de leche. Get our Caramel, Apple, and Cinnamon Breakfast Casserole recipe.
6. Apple Turnovers
Pretty much anything wrapped in puff pastry is guaranteed to be a amazing, but let’s just say that these apple-stuffed pockets do an especially good job of filling out the dough with something satisfyingly sticky and sweet. Get our Apple Turnovers recipe.
7. Apple Fritters
Crisp, puffy, and coated in a maple glaze, these fritters are way more rich and fruit-filled than just about any version you’d get at a donut shop. Get our Apple Fritters recipe.
8. Easy Apple Crisp
Intimidated by the thought of trying to put together the perfect apple pie? An apple crisp is an easy, practically no-fail alternative that hits all the same brown sugar and cinnamon-spiced notes. Get our Easy Apple Crisp recipe.
9. Apple Muffins with Pecan Streusel
Moist on the bottom and crunchy on top: muffins like these are hard to resist during breakfast, dessert, and snack time (or pretty much any time, really). Get our Apple Muffins with Pecan Streusel recipe.
10. Cornbread and Apple Stuffing
For a little sweet meets savory action, this cornbread and apple stuffing is balanced out by the wholesomeness of carrots, celery, and herbs. Get our Cornbread and Apple Stuffing recipe.
11. Apple-Honey Upside-Down Cakes
Up the sticky and sweet factor with a generous smothering of caramel. These upside-down apple and honey caramel cakes are about as delectably gooey and sugary as can be. Get our Apple-Honey Upside-Down Cakes recipe.
Header image: Caramel Apple and Cinnamon Breakfast Casserole from Chowhound
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.