The Apple Prep Step You Shouldn't Skip For Perfect Desserts

Making a dessert with baked apples doesn't automatically mean they will turn mushy and more closely resemble applesauce than sliced apples. In fact, there's a simple trick that can help you preserve the shape of the fruit for a dessert that even Jacques Pépin would be proud of: pouring hot water over your apple slices.

Before you start to prep the apples for apple pie or other desserts, it's important to start with the right kind. Select firm fruit for baking pie and other desserts requiring structure, such as Granny Smith, Gala, or Honeycrisp. Overripe apples or softer varieties like Golden Delicious are best used in chilled pies or for applesauce. Also, don't slice the apples too small or thinly, or they will likely become mushy as they bake. Once you've picked the right apples and cut them correctly, it's time to boil some water.

Firm, yet tender apple slices

The water should be heated to about 140 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to activate the enzyme that causes the apple slices to become heat stable. Afterward, simply pour the hot water over them and let them sit for 10 minutes. The hot water allows the apples' pectin to stabilize and, as a result, stay slightly firm while being baked. The apples will still soften when baked, just at a slower rate. Heated cider can also be used to add even more flavor to the apple slices.

While the apples are warmed in the water, tiny bubbles may rise to the surface of the liquid, and the fruit may hiss in the water, both of which are normal. After the apples have been allowed to soak in the hot water, they should be drained and allowed to cool. At this point, the apple slices should still be a little rigid and have a bit of crispness to them.  Now you can season them and proceed with the recipe