The Apple Lover's Cookbook

Tired of apple pies in which the fruit loses its shape and turns into mushy sauce? Amy Traverso's The Apple Lover's Cookbook offers solutions. But what earns it a place on your shelf are not her 100 recipes for old standbys such as Apple Crisp and German Pancake, few of which are likely to replace your favorites; rather, it is the alphabetized, alluringly photographed, in-depth guide to 59 apple varieties that precedes them.

Much as some recent cookie books have taken to classifying recipes by texture (chewy, cakey, crumbly, etc.), Traverso classifies each apple variety as belonging to one of four categories: Firm-Tart, Firm-Sweet, Tender-Tart, and Tender-Sweet, with suggestions for best use. Her recipes, in turn, call for apples in a specific texture category, helpfully listed on a "cheat sheet" that also flags slow-to-oxidize varieties for salads. (I do wish this chart were printed on the end-pages for easier reference.)

So, for that perfect apple pie, use a mix of firm-tart and firm-sweet varieties. But don't stop at pies and tarts. I used firm-sweet Pink Ladies and Honeycrisps, and, lacking tender-sweets, some tender-tart Macouns and Cortlands to test two apple cakes -- the easy, moist Apple Brownies and the slightly more complicated Apple-Studded Brown Butter Streusel Coffee Cake, both of which were deemed Eve-worthy on the temptation scale.

Traverso has a notable fondness for salt, which she adds to many recipes via salted butter as well as by the teaspoonful. Savory options include a Parsnip-Apple Puree and an Apple and Chestnut-Stuffed Pork Loin with Cider Sauce. My favorite recipes, however, are the do-ahead breakfast dishes, including a healthy Baked Apple Oatmeal Pudding -- a sort of bread pudding made with rolled oats, eggs, milk, dried fruit, and diced firm-sweet apples. Although a bit dry on reheating, this tasted virtuous but also delicious -- though not Red Delicious, which Traverso disdains as a "Mush-Sweet" variety without "a single good use for it."

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