The Apple Lovers Cookbook

Delicious recipes are paired with an in-depth guide to 59 apple varieties.

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    The Apple Lovers Cookbook
    By Amy Traverso
    Norton, W. W. & Company
    303 pp
    View Caption

Reviewed by Heller McAlpin for The Barnes & Noble Review

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.

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Much as some recent cookie books have taken to classifying recipes by texture (chewy, cakey, crumbly, etc.), Traverso classifies each apple variety into 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."

Heller McAlpin, a frequent contributor to Christian Science Monitor, reviews books regularly for NPR.org and The Washington Post, among other publications.

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