Using a classic French technique, fresh apples are shaved thin, then layered on top of caramelized sugar and allowed to sit at room temperature for nearly a day. The apples begin to soften and break down, and then a long, slow bake further intensifies their flavor and melds them into a dense-yet-delicate whole, infused with a caramel and cinnamon flavor — Jessica Sullivan, the pastry chef at San Francisco's Boulevard who came up with this recipe, jokes that it's an old-school version of the Cryovac. Sullivan pairs this classic terrine with a moist honeyed gingerbread for an elegant-yet-simple dessert. Preparing the apples does take a bit of time, but luckily both the terrine and the cake are best made in advance.
Makes 10 to 12 serings
For The Cake
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
3/4 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
3/4 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line it with a circle of greased parchment.
Combine the sugar, honey, molasses, oil and eggs in a bowl or mixer. Whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour with the salt and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar-honey-egg mixture and mix until completely incorporated.
Slowly add the boiling water, and mix to combine (the batter will be very loose). Pour immediately into prepared pan and bake until the cake is set and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool before removing the cake from the pan (the cake is very delicate when hot). Cover the cake and let sit overnight.
For The Apple Terrine
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
7 apples (Sullivan favors Pink Pearl, Gravenstein, Honeycrisp and Jonathan)
1/2 cup sugar, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Have a 9-inch round cake pan available nearby.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine the plain sugar and the water. Heat over a medium flame, swirling occasionally, until the sugar melts and turns a light amber (not too darkly caramelized). Pour it into the cake pan, tipping the pan so that the caramel coats the entire bottom of the pan. Set aside (it will be hot).
While the caramel is cooling, peel and core the apples. Using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler, shave the apples into thin slices (keeping the slices together will make it easier to arrange them in the pan). When the caramel is cool enough, arrange the apples on top of it in the cake pan. You can spiral out from the inside, or prepare straight rows, whichever you prefer. Repeat, building layer upon layer, until the pan is evenly filled 3/4 full. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the top. Cover tightly with plastic, and set aside at room temperature for 12 to 20 hours.
After the terrine has finished resting, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Remove the plastic and cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake 4 hours. Remove and cool fully, draining off any extra liquid that has accumulated.
To assemble the cake, run a knife around the edge of the apple pan, and nudge a thin spatula around the edges to loosen the terrine (it will sometimes suction itself to the pan). If the cake developed a rounded top during baking, trim it with a serrated knife so that it is relatively flat. Place the cake atop the terrine (while the terrine is still in its pan), and then invert the two onto a plate/platter/cake stand. Give the apple pan a few taps to make sure it dislodges, then gently remove it, leaving the terrine atop the cake. Serve.