An Apple Dessert Unlike Any You Have Ever Tasted
I had seen a recipe like this years ago and became a bit obsessed. Sometimes it was referred to as an apple terrine, other times an apple gâteau. It was described as several pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced very thinly with a mandoline then layered in a dish and baked until cooked, compressed and caramelized. I saw some versions with a bit of melted butter added and even with liqueur brushed on the layers. Others turned out the final terrine onto a base of pastry while others were garnished with dried apple chips. Oven temperatures also ranged from 150°F to 350°F! In Anne Willan’s memoir, One Soufflé at a Time, she describes one made by Marc Meneau. His version recommends butter in addition to sugar cubes, rubbed on an orange peel to gather essence, the cubes then crushed and sprinkled among the apple slices. Having made the dish a few times and wanting to distill it down to its essence I attempted it with apples and nothing else; it was my favorite version yet. Here is the recipe from Anne’s book. I have notated my alterations in the Tips. Make sure to read our interview with Anne where she shares about her days at her world-renowned cooking school, La Varenne, and an embarrassing demo involving apples. She has also brought us a Yule Bread from her family archives.
Excerpted with permission of publisher. One Soufflé at a Time: A Memoir of Food and France, by Anne Willan. St. Martin’s Griffin 2013.
You’ll need a tart apple such as Granny Smith or McIntosh for this gâteau, and lots of time for the slicing and arranging the slices in the mold. Before baking, the apples tower at least 8 inches/20 cm high and they cook down to about two-thirds of the height. You’ll need to keep an eye out during the 10-12 hours of cooking as the oven must remain very, very low. Marc Meneau has a classic accompaniment, Salt Butter Caramel Sauce.
- 1 cup/200 g sugar
- ½ cup/125 ml water
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- ½ cup/125 g salted butter
- ¾ cup/175 ml heavy cream
- 4 lb/1.8 tart apples
- 1-2 tablespoons butter, for the mold
- 5-6 large lumps of sugar
- 2 oranges, for zest
- 1½-quart/1.5-liter tall soufflé dish
- For the Caramel: Heat the sugar, water and lemon juice in a heavy pan over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and boil the syrup rapidly without stirring until it starts to turn golden around the edges. If you stir, the syrup may crystallize. Meanwhile melt the butter with the cream and prepare a large bowl of cold water.
- When the syrup begins to color, lower the heat and continue boiling a few seconds to a deep golden color -- it will darken rapidly. Take the pan from the heat and dip the base in the cold water to stop the cooking. Add the butter and cream, standing back as the sauce may sputter and bubble up in the pan.
- Put the pan back over the heat, stirring until the caramel is completely dissolved. Let the sauce cool, then taste it and add a pinch of salt if needed to sharpen the flavor. Serve hot or chilled.
- For the Gateau: To prepare the soufflé dish, generously butter it. Butter a wide double strip of foil to form a collar extending at least 3 inches/7.5 cm above the rim of the dish. Press the collar, buttered side inward, against the inside of the dish. Butter the inner side of the foil and chill until the butter is set and the foil sticks to the dish.
- To extract the zest from the skins of the oranges, rub them with the sugar cubes so the cubes soften and turn bright orange. Wrap the orange-flavored cubes in plastic wrap and crush them with a rolling pin.
- Peel the apples and scoop out the stem and flower ends. Halve them and scoop out the core with a melon baller or the point of a knife. Set a half, cut-side down on a board and cut it crosswise into the thinnest possible slices. Alternatively, slice the apple halves on a mandoline.
- To assemble the Gâteau: Arrange a layer of apple slices in a flower pattern in the bottom of the mold. Top this first layer of apple with more slices arranged across the others life the ripples in a pond. (This crossed pattern of slices ensures that the cake holds together when unmolded.) Sprinkle the second layer with some of the crushed orange sugar. Continue filling the mold until the apples, held in place by the paper collar, extend at least 2 inches/5 cm above the rim. (They will shrink down into the mold during cooking.) Cover them with a round of buttered foil.
- Heat the oven to 150◦F/66◦C and set a shelf low down. Set the mold on a baking sheet. Bake the gâteau in the warm oven until the apples are much reduced and meltingly soft when pierced with a skewer, 10-12 hours. Tear off the top of the foil collar and let the cake cool to tepid. Unmold it onto a warm platter -- the top should be lightly caramelized with a little syrupy juice running down the sides. Serve it warm, with Salt Butter Caramel Sauce on the side.
- After making this terrine a few times I chose to make it with 100% apples and nothing else. I also used a full 10 pounds apples; I used Gala or Braeburn. I simply layered them in a 1 ½ quart round soufflé dish with the buttered, extended collar.
- I baked my terrine at 325°F for about 8 hours. You do need to be able to check it from time to time. It should darken, the apples will compress, and it will look caramelized.
- I have enjoyed this cold as well as warm; your choice. The photo is of my version with a dollop of Greek yogurt – for breakfast!
- The picture below shows the terrine made in a loaf pan. Your choice.