Baseball playoffs are on TV (c’mon Dodgers), and I am bombarded by pumpkins in every market, so it’s Fall, right? Well then, why did I break a sweat bringing in the paper this morning? Because I was wearing my autumnal flannel PJ’s, a robe, and slippers, while tricksy mother nature made it 90 degrees. Boooo.
I still want it to be fall, so today I am utilizing the bounty of great apples coming into the markets. I am sure you have a local apple that you like. Generally I bake with the Fuji, but I look for Gravenstein apples this time of year. They have the perfect balance of sweet and tart for me. Do not worry about red vs. green apples for this recipe. Just use what you like to eat out of hand. Common wisdom says red apples break down more than green, but this is more common in Europe, than the USA, where common market apples are grown crisp for the lunchbox, not the stovetop. If you’re buying from the grower, you might inquire about cook-ability, but this recipe works with both firm and saucy apples, so don’t sweat it.
The Charlotte dates from the late 18th century, and is said to have been named for Queen Charlotte, Wife of George III. The Charlotte Russe is an altogether different recipe, which includes the triumphal Bavarian cream, and is said to be a concoction of that culinary sadist Careme. We will save for another time…perhaps after the turkey mayhem. On a personal note, I had a friend in culinary school named Charlotte, who pronounced her name char-LOT. I always thought she should quit school and open a used car lot. She didn’t think it was funny either.
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
5 pounds your favorite apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup apricot jam
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
18 slices firm white bread
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add apples in a single layer, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoon granulate sugar. Cook, stirring or tossing, until apples are golden and caramelized. Add 1/4 inch of water and cook until apples are tender and water is evaporated. Turn cooked apples out onto a baking sheet to cool, and repeat with remaining apples.
- Melt remaining butter, and using a pastry brush, lightly coat the inside of a charlotte mold. (If you don’t have a charlotte mold, use a high sided cake pan or an oven-safe sauce pan.) Dust the mold with granulated sugar by placing 1/2 cup of sugar in the mold and turning and tapping the mold so that the sugar sticks to the butter. Tap out excess. Preheat oven to 450˚F.
- Trim crust from bread, and set aside 4 slices. Cut 3-4 slices in half on the diagonal to create triangles. Brush with melted butter and lay in the bottom of the mold like a pinwheel, points in the center, slightly overlapping. Be sure none of the pan bottom is showing. Cut remaining slices in half to form rectangles, brush them with butter, and line the sides of the mold by slightly overlapping the long edge of each rectangle.
- Mix cooled, cooked apples with 1/2 cup of jam, nutmeg, lemon zest, vanilla bean, and salt. Fill bread-lined mold with apples, pressing down to eliminate any air pockets. Brush reserved bread slices with butter and cover apples to create the base of the charlotte. Bake charlotte for 30 minutes, then cover with buttered foil and continue baking another 20-30 minutes until sides are golden brown (peek at the sides by sliding a knife between the bread and the mold). Cool on a rack until the mold can be handled, then invert charlotte onto a serving platter.
- In a small sauté pan combine remaining jam with 1/4 cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring, until dissolved. Brush hot glaze all over charlotte crust. Serve warm or room temperature with a dollop of crème Chantilly.