The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

20-Hour Apples Are Absolutely Fantastic!!

baltochef's picture

20-Hour Apples Are Absolutely Fantastic!!

After using up some Granny Smith apples that were a little past their prime earlier today to make an Apple Brown Betty that only turned out so-so; I remembered just how great an apple dessert can be if the baker truly puts some effort into its creation..After tasting, and being disappointed with, my efforts with the Apple Brown Betty I for some reason remembered the 20-Hour Apples that I made for the first, and only time, back in 2000..

The recipe comes out of the book Desserts by Pierre Herme..The execution of the recipe takes the better part of 24 hours, but in reality is simplicity itself..Why I never made the 20-Hour Apples recipe again after that first time I do not know..The apple filling that results from the recipe can be used in a variety of ways, and is quite simply the best tasting apple dessert creation that I have ever eaten, bar none..Chef Herme's recipe calls for a mixture of sweet and tart apples, such as Granny Smith and Fuji..I used all Granny Smith apples back in 2000 and thought that the resulting dessert filling was simply fabulous..If I could get my hands on some heirloom Gravenstein apples I am positive that the end result would be far tastier, with additional layers of apple flavor, than what I obtained with the Granny Smith apples..

I urge anyone that loves apple desserts to try their hand at this recipe..You WILL NOT be disappointed!!..

20-Hour Apples

Pre-heat the oven to 175F

6 Granny Smith tart apples, preferably organic

4 Fuji sweet apples, preferably organic

4 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup organic granulated cane sugar

Finely grated zest of 1-2 organic oranges

Pyrex 8"x8" square baking dish, buttered

6" diameter ceramic souffle dish half filled with baking weights (dried beans)

heavy-duty plastic wrap

Peel the apples..Core them with a suitably-sized apple coring tool..Cut the apples in half through the core..Using a very sharp knife slice the apples across the core into slices that are as thin as you can make them..The thinner the better..Twice the thickness of a piece of printer paper is about what you want to shoot for..Try to keep the slices of the apple halves neatly together..Pick up the entire half of the thinly sliced apple and fan out the slices in the bottom of the buttered baking dish as evenly as possible..Repeat the slicing and fanning out with additional apple halves until the bottom of the dish is covered in a single layer of fanned out ultra-thin apple slices..Now, brush melted butter over the layer of sliced apples..Sprinkle the layer of buttered apples with a thin layer of granulated sugar, followed with some of the finely grated orange zest..Repeat these steps until all of the apples have been used up in this way..Tightly wrap the baking dish with plastic wrap taking care to stretch it tightly across the dish like a drum head..Turn the dish 90 degrees and repeat the wrapping process..Take a sharp, pointed paring knife and poke a series of holes through the two layers of plastic wrap every inch, or so..Place the dish on a 1/2 sheet pan..Place the souffle dish half filled with dried beans on top of the plastic wrap, taking care NOT to cover up all of the holes that you just poked in the plastic wrap..Place the sheet pan with the weighted, plastic wrapped baking dish into the 175F oven..Do not worry!!..At 175F the plastic wrap will not burn..It will shrink up, and some of it might stick tightly to the Pyrex dish, but ir will easily scrape off later..Set a timer for 10 hours, and allow to bake until the time is up..Remove everything from the oven..Spill the beans out onto the sheet pan and allow them to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack..Cool the wrapped dish on a cooling rack to room temperature without removing the plastic wrap..When the apples are at room temperature, place them in the refrigerator with the weighted souffle dish back on top of the apples..Cool in the refrigerator for 10 hours..When the 10 hours in the fridge are up, remove the dishes from the refrigerator, and unwrap the apples..

The end result should be approximately 4-5 cups of a jam-like apple filling where the apples still maintain some semblance of their original shape..The taste will be out-of-this-world fantastic with an apple intensity that has to be experienced to be believed..Organic ingredients are a must for this recipe, and will pay the baker back for their higher costs in additional layers of flavor untainted by petrochemical residues..

Do not get hung up on the equipment suggestions, just use whatever equipment that you own..The ingredients are the key to 20-Hour Apples..

20-Hour Apples are fantastic over a great vanilla ice cream..They also make a fantastic tart filling, cake filling, danish filling, etc..I am sure that any baker can come up with dozens of ways to use this filling..


flournwater's picture

Well Bruce, the recipe is interesting but I must take issue with some of the (as it appears to me) unnecessary processes.  Tightly wrapping the dish with plastic wrap and then poking holes an inch apart serves no better purpose (in my fifty years of experience) than covering tightly with aluminum foil and poking holes in that.  I have also done double blind tests using commercial organically grown fruits and quality commercially grown fruits that were not organic and, in side by side comparisons, the statistical data I've collected does not support the claim that organically grown fruits taste better in baked goods.  That includes Apfelkuchen, Apricot Kuchen, Fruit filled Strudel of several varieties, Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Peach Pie, Tarts and other baked goods.

Sorry my friend; as interesting is it looks, I can't support this one as published.

baltochef's picture

I started growing fruits and vegetables organically in 1980..I am convinced beyond ANY doubt that properly grown organic produce is healthier..If organic produce is grown, harvested, properly cared for, and consumed within a reasonable distance of where it is grown (250 miles, 100 miles is MUCH better), then it will usually, almost always, taste better than non-organic produce..Note the words properly taken care of..Transporting food stuffs thousands of miles away from where they are grown might be the way to feed an expanding world population, but IT IS NOT the way to provide human beings with optimal tasting foods with high nutritive values..Period..

Much of the taste that we perceive in petrochemically-grown produce is the result of enhancing various flavor components, the primary one of which are the sugars that occur naturally in most foods..Scientists have also been genetically boosting any flavor component in a fruit or vegetable that is volatile enough to perceptively dissipate during the long periods of time that transpire between the actual harvesting of the produce to the actual consumption of the produce..Sometimes as much as 14 days transpires between harvest and purchase..

I have no doubt that commercially grown organic produce would produce the results you indicate in your double blind tests..I am very suspicious of the majority of the so-called organic produce that is sold in chain grocery stores..In my personal experience shopping at Trader Joes and Whole Foods I have been disappointed more often than happy with the flavor and texture of the organic produce sold in these two supermarket chains..

When I recommend purchasing organic produce I almost always suggest that you know the source where the produce is grown..Or else, grow it yourself..How else can one KNOW if the produce is truly organic, unless one is familiar with the farmer growing the produce??..The lack of regulatory oversight in the entire food growing industry, especially with large-scale organic farmers, is appalling..Organic produce is just the latest bandwagon that Big Farming is jumping onto to reap greater profits..

As far as the plastic wrap is concerned, well I suggest that you pen your comments to Chef Pierre Herme himself, and ask him for his reasons for doing so..It might not make sense, but I can assure you that the results speak for themselves..His book is full of time consuming procedures that often seem too complicated..I made about 10 of the desserts in the book, and was only disappointed with one of them..I canot recall which one it was as I never purchased the book, only borrowed it from my local public library..

summerbaker's picture

I cannot say that I usually notice much difference in flavor between organic and "conventional" fruits and vegetables that are shipped from say, California (I live in FL) from the industrial organic farms, or even some of the local Floridian organic produce.  I do buy probably 95% of the produce that I purchase as organic because I like to support organic farming practices, though.  However, I grow nearly all of the lettuce (it can be grown year round) that my husband and I consume as well as many other seasonal veggies throughout the year because there is a very distinct difference in flavor between these and virtually any that I have brought home from the store.  There is absolutely no beating freshly picked produce!  I'm not a particularly great "farmer;" I generally just stick seeds in the ground and experiment with soil amendments (I have a compost pile) as I plant things.  In other words, given how easy it has been to grow wonderful vegetables without a lot of know-how, I would recommend growing at least a few fruits and/or vegetables to anyone not already doing so.  It's a lot like bread baking, in fact.  The simplest misshapen loaf is still going to taste better than anything you will be able to grab off of a supermarket shelf!


pmccool's picture


Does the weighted dish on top of the plastic eventually come to rest on the apples, below?  Or is it simply a tensioning device to keep the plastic wrap taut?

Thanks for the write-up.  It sounds delicious.


baltochef's picture


It eventually pushes the plastic wrap downwards so that it touches the apples..Remember, the apples are losing moisture as they cook, and reducing in volume..I believe that the rationale for the weight is to push out the oxygen-containing air inside the baking dish through the slits in the plastic..This would help to preserve flavor by reducing the oxidation of the apples..This just occured to me as I was answering your questions..I believe this might address flournwater's concerns about poking holes in the plastic wrap..


dlt123's picture

This sounds really yummy... I will definitely give this a try.


Yerffej's picture

I have tried various apple recipes that involve long cooking times and have found those long times make for a superior product.  This one no doubt falls into that category. 

As for organic vs. conventional...the taste difference is that of night and day.  So much so that I feel silly in stating the obvious.

Thanks for the recipe,


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

or pressure cooker?   With the lid on the pot, and low temp, the air would just leave.   Cooking forces the air out, weight or no weight.  I think the weight (or pressure) is to maintain even heat and moisture and limit movement throughout the mass, not at first, but as the plastic stretches, this will happen gradually as the weight lowers onto the cooking apples, maybe even preventing the apples from foaming. 

The key is to mix up your apples, tart & sweet, good tasting ones, and not to burn them while cooking.  Sounds like a good method to prepare can apples for pies or tarts later.  While still hot, pack into hot clean jars and add lids, then put into hot water bath.  The apples will be vary condensed, like you said, jam.

I don't bother with coring apples anymore.   I just peel them and thin slice them using a box type grater. The core gives me something to hang on to while grating and ev. gets pitched.  Or if they are as organic as you say, better to cut them up and remove the worms (they like organic too!) then run the chunks thru a kitchen machine slicer.  I don't quite get all the fancy slicing and placement when it all ends up in one heap to spoon out.  I might get excited when it concerns direct placement in a cake where the delightful pattern of fruit is aesthetic.  The recipe sounds so busy and time consuming.  Orange peel sounds interesting.

I once squished out the juice of blackberries.   I had a wild handful and nobody liked the seeds so the juice got added to the apples for pie.  Result?  A light colored blackberry pie that everyone could eat and enjoy.  That was one of my favorite UP pies, fresh from the Northwoods.



qahtan's picture

 This is the one I make.


Sure the name doesn't sound quite as nice as "Twenty-hour apples" from Pierre Herme, but I couldn't quite spare twenty hours when I started these.  The sliced apples went in the oven the night before, for their marathon 10 hour bake, but had to come out before I went to work the next morning, which meant a total bake time of 9 1/4 hours.  I did however, manage to give them their full 10 hour chill, before using them in Pierre Herme's Melody Cake. 

Considering that the apples were a little shy on the bake time, I'd say they turned out really well.  Of course, never having had actual "Twenty-hour apples", it's hard to compare.  Once baked and chilled the apples are tender and yet still surprisingly strong.  They should still be handled with care but can be removed from the baking dish fairly easily with an offset spatula. 

I was expecting the resulting apples to be a lot more caramelized than they turned out, but the flavor was still great.  The orange peel leaves a distinct citrus note, but the apple still comes through in the end, and the addition of sugar and butter nicely balances the taste. 

If I was going to make them again though I'd consider giving them more wow.  I think adding cinnamon and a touch of apple wine to the baking process would make these apples perfect for using in a tart or served simply over custard.  The recipe makes a lot of apples so I'll have lots of opportunity to experiment. 


Twenty Hour Apples

4 lbs sour apples like Granny Smith
sugar to taste - about 1/4 - 1/2 cup depending on the sweetness of the apples
about 1/4 cup melted butter
The original recipe calls for the rind of one orange, but I think I'll try cinnamon, or cardamon next time, but you could add anything you wanted to infuse the apples.

Heat the oven to 175 F. 

Peel the apples, half them and then using a melon baller remove the seeds and then cut them crosswise into very thin slices keeping them together.  Once sliced fan the apples out slightly using your hands and spread them somewhat evenly in a baking dish, but don't worry about them being perfect, pile them up.  You'll end up with a few layers.  I used an 8x11 glass pan.  Create the first layer and then brush with butter, sprinkle with sugar and then spices.

Once all the apples are layered in the baking dish wrap the whole thing well with plastic wrap to create a tight seal.  Poke a few holes in the top and place two oven proof dishes on top of the apples, without covering the holes, to add weight while baking.  All the surface will not be covered and that's fine. 

Bake the apples with weights for 10 hours.  The oven is not hot enough to melt the plastic wrap, so don't worry about doing this. 

Once baked remove the dish from the oven and refrigerate for another 10 hours.  Once they are finished this process they can be used in whatever you like.  On ice cream, in ice cream, in a pie... 




qahtan's picture

Pierre Herme's Melody cake with 20-hour apples

Returning to the themes of ridiculously over-involved cooking and using books that I previously only drooled upon, this is easily the most ambitious/complicated thing I have ever prepared.

It's a composite cake from Desserts by Pierre Herme. The layers, starting at the bottom, are as follows:
1) cinnamon pastry dough (made with sieved egg yolks)
2) genoise
3) 20-hour apples
4) caramel Bavarian cream
5) genoise
6) cinnamon pastry
7) fresh apple slices
8) apricot jam, to be thorough

The recipe itself is 4 pages long, and that's not including the basic recipes for genoise, cinnamon pastry, and 20-hour apples. Suffice it to say, I will not post it. But it was eminently manageable, albeit drawn out: overall, this was a 3.5 day project. However, very little of it was difficult.

The most intimidating part was the Bavarian cream, which starts with making caramel, then making creme anglaise, then stirring in gelatin and whipped cream. Thermometers are involved, which makes it seem frightening, but in the end is a lot easier than interpreting more subjective instructions.

The most "difficult" part was all the beating: I left the beaters to my handheld mixer at my moms, so I had to beat the eggs (for the genoise) and the heavy cream by hand. That was tiring, and I especially didn't expect it to cut it for the genoise. I stayed home from work the next day to recuperate (only partially true).

Anyway, with the average stocked kitchen, this is feasible, and the result is just so astounding: beautiful, delicious, and impressive as hell. This is showing off, and it's good for everyone.

What am I most likely to repeat in the next year? The 20-hour apples. They would be fantastic with ice cream, or yogurt, or spread on a piece of bread, or eaten out of the pan with a spoon.

Twenty hour apples

8-10 tart and sweet apples. I used a mix of Granny Smith and Fuji.
4 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 175F or to its lowest setting. Butter an 8x8-in. square or 9-in. round glass or ceramic baking dish.

Peel the apples and slice lengthwise through the core. Use a corer or whatever you have to remove the core and seed. Slice crosswise very, very thinly, keeping the apple halve in one piece. Lift all the slices of one halve and press them to fan them out. Lay them in the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Continue with more apple halves, laying them in an even layer across the bottom of the dish. Brush the layer with melted butter, sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar, and sprinkle over a pinch of orange zest. Repeat this process with more layers until you have used all the apples.

Double-wrap the dish with plastic, stretching tightly across the top and bottom, and repeating in the other direction. Pierce the top a 6-8 times with a fork or small knife. Weigh down the apples by placing an oven-proof dish over. (I used a stainless steel mixing bowl filled with beans; Pierre says to try a souffle dish). The important thing is not to cover all the holes you pierced in the plastic.

Place the dish on a jelly roll pan or cooking sheet and place in the center of the oven. Bake for 10 hours (the plastic will not melt at this temperature).

Remove the apples, leaving the weight in place, and place them on a cooling rack until they are down to room temperature.

Still with the weight in place, chill the apples in the fridge for 10 hours.

Makes 5 cups.

[Adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme]


baltochef's picture


I never did get around to making the Melody Cake out of the cookbook while I had it on loan from the public library..I made the 20-Hour Apples, and that is as far as I got..I did use the apples in tarts, over good vanilla ice cream, and just to eat plain..Like you I have been considering the addition of spices since recalling how good the recipe was yesterday afternoon..Apple brandy, some good homemade hard apple cider, homemade apple wine, these all might make good additions to the apples prior to baking..I am even thinking of doing up like 10 pounds of apples at one time so I could experiment with different types of apple pies..Maybe a Dutch Apple Pie??..


cdnDough's picture

Mine was a bit of a disappointment.  The sponge, cream, and apples were fine but I rolled the cinnamon pastry too thick.  I was also a little confused by the instructions to "dissolve 2tsp of gelatin in 2tbsp of water" prior to it actually being needed.  Mine solidified before I could use it.  Finally, I found myself frustrated with the proportioning listed and the excess of intermediates the recipe makes.  If you follow along with the listed proportions, you end up with one extra sponge cake, 1/3 extra pastry, 2/3 extra of the 24 hour apples.

Overall, I'd rate this one as too much work given the result.

qahtan's picture

 All I have to say on this subject is that home grown  organic is far superior, what is better than picking your own grown fruit and veg.

  We don't have a very large garden but we do grow as much as possible, in fact last week, (mid March) we pulled the last of home grown leeks.

 We have enough fruit , apricots, pears, apple, plums, blackberries, strawberries etc in the freezer to last us round till these are in season again. we have sme every day, of veggies we have broccoli, peas and broad beans.    

We do buy some veggies from our local farmers, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada. 

 We do buy some things from the store but not much.

Even to cheese, milk, cream, eggs are Ontario organic, and porridge oats plus organic hard wheat berries to mill to make our own bread.

 I know that many people are not as lucky as we are,  but we do make the most of Ontario grown. I consider we are extremely lucky.    qahtan 

                This is just my 2 cents worth for people that seem to poo poo organic, I E;-  like my brother.... ;-)))) qahtan     


summerbaker's picture

19 hours, 20 hours.....  Whatever, all of these recipes look delicious!  I'm inspired!


LuLu B's picture
LuLu B

great looking apples. organic and local produce is sooooooooooooooooo much better than conventional produce


swtgran's picture

Seems wrong to go to the expense of organic apples, then put them in contact with warmed plastic wrap.  It is like exchanging one chemical for another.  Maybe I am missing something in this process.

Urchina's picture

Ah, you were not alone in thinking this. I can't see aluminum foil working well either, because with time and heat the acids in the apples are going to interact with the aluminum and give a funky flavor to the apples. 


I think I'm going to do as Mini suggests and try my crock-pot. I use it to make apple butter every fall; this isn't that far off the mark. 

lynnebiz's picture

Well, as I was scrolling down & reading, I thought I was going to be the first to mention this. Personally, with the info we now have, I feel it is too much of a health hazard to use any sort of plastic w/heat w/our food. I even try to store my food in glass instead (even though glass & I have sort of a history - it likes to break and threaten to stab me. ~sigh~ I think it's in cahoots w/the oven, which consistently burns my right hand...)