Charlottes are dessert concoctions in which a fruit or custard filling is cooked in a pudding mould lined with bread. Charlottes are probably very old, as they are a nifty way to use up stale bread, and people in the Middle Ages dreamed up an awful lot of ways to avoid throwing bread away.
The origin of the name ‘Charlotte’ is debated over and over and nobody really has the slighest clue where it came from. Here are the chief theories:
- Charlyt. The Old English term ‘Charlyt’ meant a ‘dish of custard,’ which is a popular filling for a charlotte.
- Queen Charlotte. The dish was named after the wife of Britain’s King George III.
- Charlotte of Prussia. The dish was named after the sister-in-law of Alexander I of Prussia.
Many recipes old and new call for ladyfingers to be used as the lining. The recipe given here is from August Escoffier, and it uses the more traditional bread. When we tried it, we remarked that it does not need the additional sweetness of ladyfinger biscuits. This dish is endlessly adaptable, so you can be sure to see more charlottes on this site in the coming months.
Charlotte de pommes
- For the charlottes:
- 150g butter
- About a quarter or more of a loaf of bread, sliced and crusts removed
- 5 Braeburn or Cox apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1.5 tbsp caster sugar
- 1.5 tbsp apricot jam
- For the sauce:
- 4 apricots, ripe (or stewed and drained)
- 100 ml simple syrup (1:1 water and caster sugar, heated until dissolved)
- 1 tbsp Madeira.
Heat an oven to 220˚C.
Use some butter to heavily grease 4 individual pudding moulds. Use a round cutter to cut bread to fit the bottom and the top of the mould (usually 2 different sizes). Then cut more bread into 2cm strips long enough to line the sides of the mould. Melt 100g of the remaining butter and use it to soak the bread. Line the moulds with the small disc in the bottom, and the strips slightly overlapping around the sides. Some squidging is needed. Set the larger discs aside for now.
Heat 25g of butter in a shallow pan and add the apples, cinnamon and sugar. Cook this down until the apple becomes a purée. Stir in and dissolve the jam. Use the mixture to fill the charlottes, and then top with the larger bread discs.
Put the moulds on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 30–35 mins.
To make the sauce, pass the apricots through a sieve to make a purée. Put the purée in a saucepan with the syrup and reduce to a coating consistency. Flavour with the Madeira.
Once cooked, the tops of the charlottes will be crispy and golden, but not burnt. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly to enable handling. Run a small palette knife around the moulds to release the charlottes, and turn them upside-down onto serving plated. Spoon over with the sauce.