Best Baking Apples For Pie, Kuchen, and Dumplings

Exploring the Most Popular Apples for Eating

Best Baking Apples For Pie, Kuchen, and Dumplings

When my kids were little, I wore out the phrase “A is for apples.” It started when we planted an orchard of apple trees across from our pond. Our climate here in southwestern Ohio is well-suited for growing apple trees. Unlike growing apples in cold regions, we could choose from a large variety. Our goal was to grow the best baking apples and the most popular apples for eating and cooking. The bonus was, it would be a good income-producing project for our boys.

Tracing our adventure back through my journal, I listed over 50 apple trees planted. What were we thinking? As the trees produced fruit, I learned that some of the best baking apples are Jonathan, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Winesap. Red Delicious, not so much. Although they’re one of the most popular eating apples, Red Delicious lose flavor and texture when baked or cooked. Lodi and Yellow Transparent apples, with their soft texture, bear fruit early and abundantly. They are perfect for applesauce and apple butter.

Our apple harvest now is quite small compared to those days. Along with my tried and true favorites, I’ve added a new addition to my best baking apples list — Honey Crisp!

All-American Apple Pie

Feel free to substitute your best baking apples here. A combination of Jonathan and Granny Smith work well.


  • 9 or 10-inch pie pan (deep dish preferred)
  • Favorite crust recipe for a two-crust pie
  • 5 to 6 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon or apple pie spice
  • Couple dashes of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place crust in pie pan. Press firmly against sides and bottom. This helps prevent shrinkage.
  3. In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice.
  4. Whisk sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt together.
  5. Pour sugar mixture over apples and toss to coat apples evenly.
  6. Pour into pie pan.
  7. Top with second crust. Wrap excess top crust under bottom crust edge, pressing edges together to seal. Press edges with fork or flute for a decorative edge. Cut slits in several places in top crust.
  8. Place on tray to catch spills and bake on the bottom rack the of the oven. This allows the bottom crust to bake nicely.
  9. After the first 20 minutes of baking, put a foil collar on the edges of the crust to prevent excessive browning. Bake for 40 to 60 more minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Cool and serve.
Granny Smith is a favorite baking apple.
My granddaughter, Eva, picking Jonathan apples from our tree.
Another baking favorite is the Jonathan apple.
Make it with a plain crust.
Or make it with a fancy lattice crust.

Don’t Toss the Peelings!

Try your hand at making apple cider vinegar with leftover apple peels.

Metal or Glass?

The debate over metal or glass falls into the category of personal preference.

Metal pans conduct heat better than glass. They also help keep the shape of the crust more stable. Why? Glass is more slippery than metal, making crusts more prone to slouching in the pan.

But because glass is clear, radiant energy can pass through and help the crust bake faster and darker. That’s why lowering the temperature by 25 degrees is good, so the filling can catch up to the crust.

Ceramic pans make the most beautiful pies, but take the longest to bake.

Tip: Add a couple pinches of baking powder to the dough when using glass pans. That helps the dough grab onto the sides of glass pie pans.

Apple Kuchen

Kuchen is the German word for cake. My daughter-in-law makes a lovely kuchen, but she doesn’t measure ingredients! Here’s my version of Inge’s kuchen.

Ingredients for Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Extra flour for hands

Ingredients for Filling

  • 5 to 6 small or medium Granny Smith apples (or your best baking apples)
  • 1/4 cup sugar mixed with one generous teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a nine-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment.

Make Cake Crust

  1. Mix together flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.
  2. On medium speed, cream butter and sugar until fairly fluffy and light. The color will lighten as more air is beaten in.
  3. Beat in egg and vanilla. The mixture will look curdled.
  4. On low speed, sprinkle in flour mixture and beat just until combined. The mixture will be very sticky and soft. Put mixture into the middle of the springform pan, and with floured hands, gently pat mixture over bottom and up one inch on the sides.

Make Filling

  1. Peel and core apples. Cut in half.
  2. Poach halves in a single layer in a small amount of water, about a half-inch or so, turning a couple of times, just until they’re crisp-tender and can be pierced with a knife easily. Don’t overcook. Drain well.
  3. Place apple halves on top of the crust, rounded side up. Fill in the center with sliced apples. If you want apple slices instead of halves, after they cool a bit, cut into quarter-inch slices and lay in a spoke pattern, overlapping.
  4. Sprinkle with sugar mixture.
  5. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. Serve warm.

Tip: Poach apples ahead. Add a little lemon juice to the poaching water to keep apples from turning brown. Drain, cover, and refrigerate for a day. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Cake pan with removable bottom for kuchen.
Baked apple kuchen.

Mom’s Apple Dumplings

These dumplings are always the first to go at our church bake sales. Nothin’ says lovin’ like a warm apple dumplin’ from the oven!

Ingredients for Dumplings

  • 1 double pie crust recipe
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 8 baking apples, peeled and cored
  • 8 teaspoons butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix the sugar and cinnamon and set aside.
  3. Divide the pie crust into eight equal pieces.
  4. Roll out each piece onto a floured surface into the shape of a square about 6 to 8 inches. To test the size, place an apple in the center of it and see if you can bring the four corners up to meet at the top.
  5. Place one peeled and cored apple in the center of each square of rolled pie crust.
  6. Fill the cavity with some of the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Dot with one teaspoon butter. Bring one corner of the pastry up over the top of the apple. Take the opposite corner and overlap it over the first one. Moisten to seal these two together. Repeat with the last two corners of the pastry. Moisten to seal the last two corners together.
  7. Place the eight dumplings in a sprayed baking dish.

Ingredients for Syrup

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups cool water
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon


  1. Whisk cornstarch into water. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat for three minutes, or until sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to thicken.
  2. Pour the syrup over the dumplings in the baking dish.
  3. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until well-browned and a fork pressed into the apple tests soft.
  4. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Makes eight dumplings.

Properly wrapped apple dumplings.
Baked apple dumpling.

Does an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

Apples contain vitamin C, are high in fiber, low in calories, and filled with nutrients. The peel has six to eight times more polyphenols than the flesh. The thicker the skin, the better. Red Delicious is a star here.

Storing Apples

Apples eaten within a week can be stored at room temperature. For longer storage, up to a month, store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Store separately from oranges. When they are stored together, a type of gas is emitted that makes both spoil faster.

What are your best baking apples? Which do you prefer for cooking and eating?


Cortland An offspring of McIntosh, these tart apples keep their color longer than other apples and are best eaten fresh.
Empire A cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, somewhat tart but mellow with age.
Fuji Developed in Japan, these sweet apples become sweeter and richer in storage. Best for eating fresh.
Gala Sweet with a lively kick, best for eating fresh. Flavor fades after storing.
Golden Delicious Mild and sweet, good for eating fresh and baking.
Granny Smith Tart, a bit acidic, my go-to apple for baking.
Honey Crisp Good balance of sweet and tart, good for eating fresh and baking. Makes a nice baked apple.
Jonagold A mix of Jonathan and Golden Delicious, the sweet tang of this apple is best for eating fresh.
Jonathan Tart with a “winey” flavor when ripe. Excels in baking and eating.
Red Delicious Sweet, mild, lunchbox apple, best eaten fresh. Flavor does not hold up in baking.
Winesap Big apple, bold flavor with notes of cider, one of my favorite eating and baking apples.
McIntosh Sweet and less firm than others.


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