Tuesday 12 July 2022

apple charlotte

If you love apples and the crisp yet soft paradox of hot buttered toast, this is the dessert for you!  A charlotte is the autumn/winter edition of another English classic, the summer pudding, both feature fruit and fluffy white bread, but for me the charlotte has the edge with its crispy, buttery exterior and undeniable affinity with custard. 

Use your favourite apples, I went for a mixture of Granny Smith and Pink Lady. The apples are cooked down very slowly, intensifying their flavour, I don't add much sugar so the result can be quite tart, increase the sugar if you prefer, but not too much as you'll dull that wonderful apple-iness. 

This is an ideal recipe for a chilly day when you've no reason to leave the house, it's not particularly taxing, but does take time. Serve the charlotte hot from the oven with custard, cream, or ice cream, maybe all three, a hit of caramel sauce was a winner with a sweet toothed member of our house. Store leftovers covered in the fridge, they won't be pretty, but will reheat beautifully. 

Developed for Harris Farm Markets this recipe uses fruit from their Imperfect Picks range, bargain produce that saves fruit from landfill and supports our local farmers.

You'll need a 1 litre pudding basin.

apple charlotte

1.2kg apples
25ml lemon juice
50g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste, or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
175g butter, divided into 60g and 115g
1 egg, separated
8-10 slices white bread

• add the lemon juice to a medium/large saucepan
• peel, core and dice the apples, add to the pan and toss in the lemon juice as you go. Once all the apples are in the pan add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon stick, star anise, and the 60g of butter. Cook very slowly on a low heat, stirring often, until the apples have broken down and the liquid has evaporated. Keep the heat low and take your time, you don't want the apples to brown; this took 40 minutes for me but could be more/less depending on the size of your pan and the juiciness of your apples. Take off the heat and leave to cool
• while the apples are cooking put the remaining 115g butter into a small pan. Melt the butter over a medium heat. The butter will bubble and a layer of foam should appear on the surface, keep boiling, the foam will form into clumps of milk solids that will sink to the bottom of the pan, keep heating, the butter stops bubbling once the water content has boiled off, this is the point we are aiming for. Take the pan off the heat and pour the clarified butter into a shallow bowl through a muslin lined sieve or coffee filter. Set aside while you prep the bread.
• use a serrated knife to cut the crusts from the bread slices. Cut a circle from one of the bread slices to fit the bottom of your pudding basin, you could eyeball this, but I gently pressed the base of the pudding basin into the slice of bread to leave an outline for me to cut around. Dip the bread round into the clarified butter, place it in the bottom of the basin, butter side down. Take 6 slices of bread and cut into thirds, dip the strips, one at a time, into the butter and place them vertically with the buttered side pressed to the pudding basin, overlap the slices as you work your way around, you may not need all of the strips. When the basin is fully lined with bread strips, lightly beat the egg white and use it to brush over the joins in the strips, lightly pressing them to seal.
• remove the cinnamon stick and star anise from the cooled apples, break the egg yolk with a fork, then beat it through the apples. Tip the apples into the bread lined basin, the use the remaining bread slices to form a lid, this time placing them butter side up. Fold the ends of the bread strips over the base, brush with egg white and press to seal.
• heat your oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan)
• find a plate/saucer that fits snuggly over the top of the pudding basin, cover with foil, brush the side that will touch the charlotte with clarified butter and sit it on top. Fill an oven safe bowl with pastry weights (I use dried red lentils!) and put that on top of the plate. Transfer the pudding/plate/bowl situation onto a baking tray and place in the oven. After 40 minutes remove the weighted bowl and plate, continue to cook the charlotte uncovered for another 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
• Remove the charlotte from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes then invert it onto a plate and serve. I topped mine with a spoon of super thick cream and a couple of blackberries, simple but glorious!

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