Let’s head to France for charlotte, a true institution when it comes to French pastry.
What is the origin of charlotte?
Well, this dessert was not really born French when taking a closer look at its history. Indeed, charlotte was created in England in the early nineteenth century and was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. Originally, this dessert was prepared in a high pan with flared edges lined with bread and butter and filled with apple or plum compote. This dessert was then baked in an oven for a long time similarly to a pudding.
But how did we go from a British dessert that looks nothing like our charlotte to the French specialty as we know it today?
We owe charlotte to Antonin Carême, aka the “king of chefs and chef of kings”, the precursor of Haute Cuisine. It is in the kitchens of the Prince Regent George IV that Antonin became familiar with the charlotte. This is where he changed the recipe for this dessert and started using ladyfingers, the same ones that he adapted from their original round shape to their elongated shape as we know them today.
He called this creation the “Parisian charlotte” to differentiate it from the English dessert. Thereafter, Antonin worked in the kitchens of Tsar Alexander and he renamed it “charlotte Russe” which is the other name by which we know charlotte today.
It was my first charlotte. My mother used to regularly make charlotte when I was young (well, younger than now). Whether strawberry or chocolate charlotte, it was a treat for my brothers and me every time she made one.
I have wanted to make a charlotte for a long time but I could not find a charlotte mold in LA. Never mind, Vera offered me two molds during my last visit to Paris.
This is not only Vera’s molds but also her recipe that I used for this post. I prepared the charlotte for the party I organized for my friend Fred who came to visit two weeks ago and where I also served my Romeu e Julieta.
With such French friends foodies, my charlotte was a success. I will use those molds again for sure!
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in French cuisine, Chef Simon. You can find Chef Simon on his website Chef Simon – Le Plaisir de Cuisiner.
- 40 ladyfingers biscuits (about)
- 6 eggs
- 1½ tablespoon sugar
- ½ vanilla pod
- 7 oz. dark chocolate (minimum 60% cacao)
- 8 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon instant coffee
- 1 cup coffee , sweetened
- 1 tablespoon rum (or coffee liqueur)
- Chocolate shavings (for garnish)
- Melt the chocolate in a bain Marie (water bath).
- Beat the egg yolks with the instant coffee, vanilla, sugar until they become firm. The mixture should triple in volume.
- Separately, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt.
- Melt diced butter into melted chocolate.
- Stir chocolate into egg yolks.
- Fold this preparation into the egg whites.
- Add the rum to the coffee.
- Dip each ladyfinger slightly into the run and coffee and line the edges of a charlotte mold.
- Pour half the mixture at the bottom of the mold
- Put a layer of moistened ladyfingers on top.
- Pour the other half of the mixture and put another layer of moistened ladyfingers on top.
- Cover with a plate and put a heavy object on top to press on the charlotte.
- Let rest for at least 6-8 hours in the fridge
- Unmold by turning charlotte mold over.
- Sprinkle chocolate shavings on top.