Why Water Is An Important Ingredient For Flavorful Baked Apples

Among the most popular fruits available for purchase, apples seem almost tailor-made for baking. Whether you're using sweet Golden Delicious or tart Granny Smiths, there are numerous types of apples that can stand up to the heat of the oven. Baked apples are a simple and straightforward dessert that are adaptable to a wide variety of ingredients, the most important of which might not be what you think: water.  

Apples are already loaded with it, as it makes up roughly 86% of their entire composition. So why is additional water so important? You're not adding any water to the apples themselves; rather, you add some to the pan they will be baking in. As apples bake, their water will steam and evaporate, while their sugars will be released into the pan below. As a result, these sugars will mix with the water below to create a sweet syrup. Having that extra water is a brilliant and simple way of getting even more robust flavor. Without it, the sugars will very likely burn when the come in contact with the hot pan. And while it is true you could use any number of liquids to bake your apples with, water is by far the most adaptable to flavor. 

Water is essential in creating a sweet syrup

The type of liquid you add to your baking pan really depends on what kind of syrup you're looking to make. As the syrup is a byproduct of the apple baking process, it doesn't require a lot of effort to achieve. You could use a fresh apple cider, brandy, whiskey, or some white wine if you felt so inclined. However, water really is the best option to maintain the naturally sweet taste of apples and other ingredients you mix in. 

This neutral nature is why water is essential for the making of stocks, broths, and sauces. In the case of baked apples, all of the ingredients will, in turn, flavor the water. So, whether you've added cinnamon, maple syrup, nutmeg, brown sugar, butter, or cardamom, it's all going to leech into the water and give you one rich-tasting syrup.

As far as just how much water you should add into your pan, start with a one-inch depth that should cover the base of the apples. If you've found that the water steamed off during baking, simply add more. And if your syrup has turned out more watery than you'd like, you can always reduce it in a separate pan until it reaches the consistency you like.