Despite being the same kind of fruit, varieties of apples can be remarkably different. From the familiar Red Delicious so common in cafeterias and vending machines to the sweet and crisp Gala to the tart green Granny Smiths, apples can offer a wide variety of flavors and textures—some of which suit baking better than others.
Braeburn apples, which originated in New Zealand, came to the United States in the 1980s. These crisp and juicy red and green apples are a cross between Granny Smith and Lady Hamilton varieties. These apples maintain their shape very well when baked, making them an ideal choice.
Granny Smith apples, which originated in Australia in the 19th century, were named for Maria Smith, who raised the first tree of this variety. These apples are very tart and should therefore be combined with sweeter apples when you bake with them.
As the name suggests, Jonagold apples are a blend of the Jonathan and Golden Delicious varieties. Their skin reflects their heritage: it is yellowish with a reddish blush. These crisp apples tend to be sweet yet slightly tart.
The flesh of Ida Red apples is generally yellowish-green, but in some cases can be slightly rosy. Because these apples are tart and tangy, they are best suited for those who enjoy less sweetness (unless you add plenty of sugar).
Cortland apples are a cross between Ben Davis and McIntosh varieties. Their red skin hides particularly white flesh. These apples are juicy and tart. Their flesh does not discolor quickly even when they have been cut, so they are good as a fruit plate apple as well as for baking.
Golden Delicious apples—with their distinctive golden skin and their mild yet sweet flavor—make a good choice for baking. Try to use the freshest and crispest apples, as they do have a tendency to turn mealy after baking.
Jonathan apples are tart and crisp, and they hold their shape well when baked. They are sometimes completely red, but are more often red and yellow.
Empires, a McIntosh and Red Delicious cross, are sweet with a hint of tartness. Their firm flesh makes them ideal for baking, but they are also good for sauce, juice and eating fresh.
Honeycrisp apples are large and mostly sweet with a hint of tartness. The slightly golden flesh of these Minnesotan apples holds up well when baked.