Another apple to be sweet on: the Honeycrisp

October 18, 2006|By ROB KASPER

There are, it seems to me, about a thousand apple varieties and a million ways to fix them.

Each fall I have a new favorite. One year it was Macoun, another autumn it was Winesap and at various times McIntosh or Jonathan has been the apple of my eye. I had a run with Galas some years back, but I am so over Galas now.

Lately I am stuck on the Honeycrisp. It is a big apple with amazing snap and juice. The cream-colored flesh of Honeycrisp packs a balance between sweetness and acid tang. I eat the apples several times a day, trying to follow the "10, 2 and 4" regimen once recommended by Dr Pepper as "three good times to enjoy life more."

While their flavor is exceptional, Honeycrisp apples present a challenge to growers. "They are not a grower's apple," said Dave Reid who, along with his wife, Kathy, grows Honeycrisp and more than 100 varieties of apples on their 100-acre farm in Adams County, Pa.

Honeycrisp are large apples, about the size of softballs, and they bruise easily. They are susceptible to a condition called "corking," Reid said, which means that dark "dead spots" appear in their flesh. "Worms love them," Reid said, but then so do humans.

At the farmers' markets the Reids work, Honeycrisp outsell other varieties of apples by about a 4-to-1 ratio, he said. "Their crunchiness is unique," he said. "It is like a guarantee that you are going to get a good apple."

Kathy Reid said that when she cooks with Honeycrisp, she has found they benefit from the company of tart apples such as Ida Red and Northern Spy. "Their sweetness is subacidic," she said.

A student of apple lineage, she said questions have been raised recently about the parentage of Honeycrisp. Developed in the early 1960s at a major apple-breeding program operated by the University of Minnesota, Honeycrisp was long thought to be a cross of the Macoun and the Honeygold varieties. But recent DNA tests determined that the Keepsake apple was one parent of Honeycrisp. The other parent has not been identified, according to a report on a Web site run by Minnesota Harvest, a large apple grower.

In light of this information, Kathy Reid said she is considering a change in the wording of the sign she hangs at markets above Honeycrisp apple. Instead of Macoun and Honeygold, the sign might read " A cross between Keepsake and Who Knows," she said.

After eating a dozen or so Honeycrisps, I tried cooking with them. Over the years my wife and I have cooked apples 6,000 ways to Sunday. We have made apple fritters, applesauce, apple cobblers and, of course, good ol' apple pies.

Recently, we came across a treatment that we had not tried - apple pudding. We found it in the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook, by Ruth Van Waerebeck and Maria Robbins, published in 1996.

It turned out to be more of a tart or shortbread than a pudding. We made a soupy cake batter, with eggs, milk, oil, sugar, vanilla and flour, poured it into a buttered springform pan and covered it with sliced apples. The recipe called for tart apples, but all we had was our favorite, Honeycrisp, so we used them. A better choice, I think, would have been to follow Reid's recommendation of using a blend of apples.

We cooked the batter for 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven, then pulled it out and added a glaze, a mixture of butter, egg and sugar. Then we put the pudding back in the oven for another 20 minutes. We discovered that our springform pan had sprung a leak. When we poured the glaze into the pan, part of the mixture oozed out of the bottom. We wrapped the pan in foil, and made a note to add a springform pan to our Christmas wish list.

The "pudding" came of the oven looking like an apple pizza. It was a pleasing mixture of cakelike dough and apples. It was sweet but not overpowering.

It made a pleasing Sunday night dessert, topped with a shot of whipped cream. The next morning, the one remaining slice made an even better Monday morning breakfast.

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Apple Pudding

Serves 6

PUDDING: 2 large eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

6 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup to 1 cup self-rising flour (flour with baking powder and salt added)

3 large tart apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

GLAZE: 4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

5 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round springform pan and line with a round of parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment paper.

Combine the eggs, oil, milk, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and mix well. Sift in enough flour to make a batter with the consistency of heavy cream.

Pour the batter into a cake pan. Arrange the apple slices on top of the batter in concentric circles and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Bake until the batter has set, 20 minutes.

For the glaze, mix the butter, sugar and egg. Pour this mixture evenly over the pudding and bake until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before removing the pudding from the pan. Serve while warm.

Adapted from "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook" by Ruth Van Waerebeek with Maria Robbins

Per serving: 398 calories, 6 grams protein, 20 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 51 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 127 milligrams cholesterol, 241 milligrams sodium

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