Pie, bars, gratin and more: Fall for our best apple recipes

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

Apple season and baking season go hand in hand, and we've dug up some recipes to get you started. But first, an apple primer.

Tracy Grondine of the U.S. Apple Association spends some of her time answering questions from food writers about te best pie apples. Granny Smith, in case you're wondering, is the most common. Blends of the tart fruit with sweeter apples such as Macintosh, Braeburn, Honeycrisp and Fuji are also excellent for baking, she said.

But in her work, she also gets to taste new apple varieties. Cosmic Crisp, which has been hard to find outside of Washington State, is beginning t make its way across the South, she said.

"And Evercrisp," she said. "If you ever see that in the grocery store, buy it."

She spends some of her time taste-testing apples with Cornell Unversity, with some of her favorites so far being the red-fleshed fire cracker Firecracker apple and another called Lemonade, which won't reach consumers for several years.

"It looks like a lemon, and has a little tartness and a little sweetness to it," she said.

For the apples you can buy now, Grondine offered some storage tips. She had bad news for those of us who like to put a big bowl of fruit on the table. While fresh apples can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months, they'll last only up to a week on the counter, she said.

To wash them, simply rinse them under the faucet. There's no need to use fancy fruit-cleaning soaps to prepare them for the recipes below, which include a not-so-classic pie, some apple bars, a sweet-savory gratin and a wild rice stuffing.

Apple Sweet Potato Gratin

This apple sweet potato gratin would be perfect on your thanksgiving dinner table.

This is a bulk dish, perfect for Thanksgiving; it serves two dozen. Break away from the usual sweet potato casseroles and give your guests a new side, one that combines savory/salty and sweet in just the right balance to excite the palate. Remember to bake the sweet potatoes the day before, or in the morning, so that you can chill them and make them easier to handle. You can use gluten-free cookies, too, and offer a dish for your special diet customers.

Serves 24


7 pounds sweet potato, 8 large

1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons salt

8 cups gingersnaps (16 ounces), 4 cups crumbs

16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

1 cup light brown sugar

8 large baking apples (Granny Smiths, Jonagold, Fuji), peeled whole

2 cups pecan pieces, chopped


Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a sheet pan. Using a sharp chef's knife, halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise, and place them cut-side down on the pan. Bake them until they are tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 40 minutes, depending on size. Cool the sweet potatoes on the pan and chill in the refrigerator until cold, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400, and use a couple of tablespoons of the butter to grease a full-sized hotel pan (20 7/8 by 12 13/16 inches.) Strip the skins from the cold sweet potatoes, and place them cut-side down on the cutting board. Slice them cross-wise into slices about 1/3 inch wide, keeping the in their original shape, then place each half in the buttered pan. When all the sweet potatoes are in the pan, spread the slices with your fingers to fan them out and form an even layer. Sprinkle with thyme and salt and reserve.

In a food processor, grind the gingersnaps to make coarse crumbs. Transfer to a medium bowl and add the cheddar cheese and brown sugar, toss to mix. Sprinkle half of the mixture over the sweet potatoes in the pan.

Peel the apples and cut each in half vertically, then pare out the core and seeds. Place on the cutting board cut-side down and slice cross-wise into 1/4 inch slices. Fan the slices over the sweet potatoes in the pan.

Chop the pecans and dice the remaining butter and mix into the remaining cheddar mixture. Sprinkle over the apples in the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, then check to see if the top is browning. If it's golden brown, cover loosely with foil, then bake for 15-20 minutes more, to heat through.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Source: U.S. Apple Association. Developed by Chef Robin Asbell and served at The Wedge Co-op deli and catering.

Preserving the season:Fig leaf jelly from Husk Nashville

Fall salad:Crisp, sweet apple-kale 'slaw'

Chunky Apple Butterscotch Bars

Step aside pie. These chunky apple butterscotch bars take apple desserts to the next level.

No need to peel the apples for these easy bars. Just chop them and add to the simple batter. The combination of butter and brown sugar tastes like butterscotch on its own, but butterscotch chips turns these bars into a decadent treat. For a fancier presentation, you can drizzle with an easy powdered sugar glaze.

Makes 96 2-inch bars


3 cups unbleached flour

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

6 sticks unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

6 cups light brown sugar

8 large egg

4 teaspoons vanilla

12 cups finely chopped apples, unpeeled

2 cups butterscotch chips


Preheat a conventional oven to 350. Butter a full-sized (18 by 26 inch) rectangular sheet pan (or 2 half-sheet pans) and reserve.

In a large bowl, whisk the unbleached flour, pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another large bowl or a stand mixer, combine the melted butter and brown sugar and stir with a heavy spoon or the batter paddle, mashing any lumps of sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, just until well-mixed. Scrape the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir, mixing until all the flour is incorporated. Stir in the chopped apples, then spread in the baking pan. Sprinkle the butterscotch chips over the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with only moist crumbs attached, and the top of the bars are golden brown.

Let cool for at least 20 minutes on a rack before cutting. Chill the bars completely to get neat squares when cutting. Cut 16 by 24, or larger, if desired.

Source: U.S. Apple Association. Developed by Chef Robin Asbell and served at The Wedge Co-op deli and catering.

Wild Rice and Apple Stuffing with Sage

This wild rice and sage stuffing also makes a perfect Thanksgiving side.

This is easily made ahead and reheated. It's also a great way to use up stale bread. The soft, sweet apple pieces make a perfect foil to the earthiness of wild rice.

Yield: 16 servings (about 24 cups)


1 cup wild rice

16 cups whole wheat bread, 10 slices, dry

1/2 cup butter or margarine

2 medium onion, medium dice

8 ribs celery, small dice

4 medium carrot, peeled and chopped

6 medium Granny Smith apples, 5 cups chopped

6 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

8 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 teaspoons black pepper

4 teaspoons thyme

2 teaspoons marjoram

3 teaspoons salt

1 cup walnuts


Oil a 2 1/2 inch deep, full hotel pan (20 7/8 by 12 13/16 inches) and reserve. In a small saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and cook the wild rice in it. It will take 30-45 minutes, depending on the type of wild rice. When tender, drain and reserve.

Cube bread and put in a large bowl, toss to dry out while you prepare the other ingredients. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat and add onion, celery, and carrots. Stir, reducing the heat to medium as it starts to sizzle. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the apples and sage and stir until the sage is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add stock and dried herbs, then pour the contents of the pan over the bread cubes. Add the cooked wild rice and fold all the ingredients together with a big spoon. Press into the prepared pan and top with walnuts.

Bake at 400 for about 40-45 minutes, until the top is browned and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the pan reads 150.

Source: U.S. Apple Association. Developed by Chef Robin Asbell and served at The Wedge Co-op deli and catering.

Cathy Barrow’s Not-So-Old-Fashioned Apple Slab Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust

Apple slab pie from Cathy Barrow’s new cookbook, “Pie Squared.”

Serves: 12 to 15


Cheddar Crust

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (325 g) all-purpose flour

16 tablespoons (225 g) unsalted butter, cubed and frozen for 20 minutes

4 ounces (113 g) cold extra-sharp cheddar cheese, preferably orange, half grated and half roughly chopped into almond-sized pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (120 mL) ice water


1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (56 g) maple sugar or 2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup (30 g) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice of 1 lemon

3 pounds (1.5 kg) mixed apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1⁄2 inch thick (about 6 large apples)

2 tablespoons (28 g) cold unsalted butter, diced

1 tablespoon water

3 tablespoons maple sugar or sparkling sugar


To make the crust: In the food processor, pulse the flour, butter, cheese, and salt until the butter and cheese are in small pieces coated with flour, about 15 times. Add the ice water all at once and process until the mixture almost forms a ball. Form the dough into a 6- by 4-inch rectangle using plastic wrap and a bench scraper to firmly press the dough into a cohesive form. Wrap tightly and refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to warm slightly. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger piece to 11 by 15 inches and place in the slab pie pan, pressing it into the corners of the pan and allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Refrigerate. Roll out the second piece of dough to 10 by 14 inches, place it on a lightly floured sheet of parchment, and refrigerate.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees; if you have one, place a baking stone, Baking Steel, or inverted baking sheet on the center rack to heat.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, mix together the granulated sugar, maple sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Add the lemon juice and sliced apples and stir gently. I like to use my hands for this. Scrape the filling into the crust in the slab pie pan and top with the dots of butter. Place the top crust over the filling, trim, crimp, and slash.

With a pastry brush, paint the water across the surface of the pie, avoiding the edges. Sprinkle the maple sugar across the top of the pie. Bake (on top of the steel, stone, or baking sheet if using) for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes. If the top gets too dark, tent with foil. The pie is done when the filling is burbling through the slashes.

Cool the pie thoroughly before serving. But if a warm pie is your heart’s content, slip the cooled pie in a hot 350-degree oven for 10 minutes before slicing.

Excerpted from the book Pie Squared: Irresistibly Easy Sweet & Savory Slab Pies by Cathy Barrow. Copyright © 2018 by Cathy Barrow. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life & Style. All rights reserved.