When Test Kitchen Director Sarah Jampel was developing our new Apple Butter Apple Galette, she knew she wanted to deliver maximum flavor with little effort. She landed on the inclusion of apple butter — the combination initially piqued her interest from other apple tart recipes found in the pages of Claudia Fleming’s Delectable and Michelle Polzine’s Baking at the 20th Century Café.
But the most genius trick might have been how she made that butter: out of applesauce, instead of the more commonly used whole apples. “I didn't want to ask people to make their own apple butter, since it's a process that takes hours,” she says, “so I was thinking about shortcuts, and it seemed obvious to start with store-bought applesauce.” No peeling, coring, or straining required!
How to make apple butter from applesauce
Once you’ve acquired applesauce, either from your pantry or on a routine grocery shopping trip, the rest of the ingredients are fairly boilerplate: brown sugar, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and the option to add boiled cider at the end for extra-concentrated apple flavor.
Add them all to a saucepan, then let the mixture simmer and reduce until it’s darkened and become thick — a matter of minutes (13 to 18, to be exact) rather than hours.
Why you should use applesauce for DIY apple butter
Applesauce is a more dependable grocery find than the specialty butter — and it doesn’t hurt that making your own costs less than the store-bought version, either. (That being said, if you prefer a premade option, you can't go wrong with this jar from Blake Hill.) In my own side-by-side trials, a 24-ounce jar of applesauce that costs $2.99 can yield nearly 1 1/2 cups of apple butter — which often runs for at least $8 for the same amount of store-bought.
How to use apple butter
When Sarah developed this Apple Butter Apple Galette recipe, the homemade apple butter was designed to yield just enough to spread across the galette dough before the apple slices are shingled on top. But in the more-is-more spirit of holiday baking, leftovers are always welcome. Simply double the recipe (and keep a watchful eye, as reducing the mixture may take a few more minutes) to make enough for the galette and extra for topping pancakes or toast — or baking into other treats, like these Apple Cinnamon Bars. (Pro tip: For over-the-top apple flavor, pair your apple butter with Apple Cinnamon Scones.)
Bonus: You can gift your DIY apple butter
Homemade apple butter is also a thoughtful and budget-friendly gift. Think of it as crisp autumn days bottled up in a Mason jar, helping us get through the dreariest of winter weather. You could stick to flavoring it with just cinnamon, or lean on a trio of apple pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice) and cardamom to give your butter some extra flair. (And as someone who has been on the receiving end of homemade apple butter, I can confirm it’s an excellent gift that gets put to good use.) It’ll last for a week in the fridge but can be frozen for several months for longer storage.
Ready to bake with apple butter? Try it in our Apple Butter Apple Galette.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.