Do You Really Need To Use Freshly Cut Apples When Baking?

Adequate preparation is the key to successfully pulling off any new recipe. For example, say you're going to try a new apple pie dish. Find a recipe: Check! Make a grocery list: Check! Go shopping: Check! Skin and chop up the apples in advance? Maybe, maybe not.

Preparing and portioning out ingredients prior to cooking may be helpful to save time, but you might wonder if it's worth it in the case of fresh fruit-based baked goods. Apples, and many other fruits and vegetables, turn brown once cut and exposed to the air, in a process known as enzymic browning (via Institute of Food Science and Technology). If cut too far ahead, it could potentially cause them to overripen and ruin their future use in a recipe.

We know what you're thinking — ripe, brown bananas are the best to use for recipes like banana bread, as King Arthur Baking notes. But what about apples? Will cutting the fruit a day or two in advance affect the quality of your baked good?

Apple prep won't affect your baking

According to the Institute of Food Science and Technology, fresh fruit and vegetables normally keep enzymes and other molecules protected by their tissue — or what we would call its skin. Enzymes are just proteins that can speed up biological and chemical reactions. So, when a fruit is cut open, its enzymes come in contact with oxygen — turning it brown. Luckily, when it comes to baking, a little bit of discoloration won't hurt anyone.

Fruits will start to brown immediately upon exposure. Of course, the longer a cut apple is out in the open, the more susceptible it is to going bad. While there are some tips and tricks to keep your apples from browning, including soaking them in lemon juice or salt after cutting (via Serious Eats), those steps might not even be necessary if you're baking.

Cook's Illustrated found that high heat completely stops browning and actually brought back the lighter color of apples. That's because acids are released while the apple is baking that breaks down the brown pigment and helps restore its natural color. Heat also softens apples, so they end up tasting the same whether or not they were brown going in the oven. So, if you want to cut your apples a day or two ahead of a bake, that's fine as long as you refrigerate them in between. It's a win-win situation: You get to prep your bake and enjoy the final results.