November 10, 2015

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Crème Anglaise

On Sunday, I cooked a Downton Abbey-inspired supper to celebrate a friend's mom's birthday. Here was our menu:

Smoked salmon mousse with cucumber canapes
Butternut squash soup with sour cream & pumpkin seeds 
Salad with Roquefort, figs, walnuts & creamy pomegranate dressing
Prosciutto, rosemary, & thyme gougeres 
Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey crème anglaise

In the 5th episode of Downton Abbey, the cook Mrs. Patmore refuses to make an Apple Charlotte for dessert, as request by the lady of the house, because she was having problems with her eyesight and couldn't read the recipe.

Apple Charlotte is essentially a caramelized apple filling baked in a French-toasty crust. In my research, I saw many different versions and methods. I chose a recipe posted on the Downton Abbey Cooks blog that uses raisin bread for the crust and condensed milk for the caramel filling. The bread is dipped in an egg & milk batter, which results in a bread pudding-like consistency. (Confession: I don't think I followed the "lightly dip" directions well. I probably should have just brushed the bread.)

In hindsight, I think it would have been better to brush the bread with butter and toast it in the oven, then brush only the tops of each Charlotte with the egg mixture. This would make for a crispier crust that held up better.

Another suggestion: Don't forget to grease the ramekins. It was difficult to get the desserts neatly out of their dishes. Whoops.

Still, these individual desserts make for an impressive presentation, and everyone seemed to like them.

Apple Charlotte with Earl Grey Créme Anglaise

makes 4 individual desserts

10 slices raisin bread or brioche, crusts removed
1 can condensed milk
3-4 medium cooking apples, peeled/cored/diced
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
3 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Combine apples, vanilla, lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon (if using), and condensed milk. Toss to coat well and cook 15 to 25 minutes until apples are just tender and liquid has evaporated. It should have a nice caramel colour.

2. While the apples are cooking, combine the eggs, milk and sugar in a shallow dish. Stir with a fork until fully combined. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and generously butter 4 small ramekins. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out four circles from the bread. These will be the bases of the charlottes. Cut the other slices of bread into rectangles about 1″ in width.

4. Start with the circle cut outs, and lightly coat with the egg mixture, and place in the bottom of each ramekin. Lightly dip the other rectangles of bread in batter as well, then use them to line the walls of each ramekin – standing them upright around the perimeter leaving an overhang that you will later use to fold over and seal the charlotte. It should take about 6-8 strips per ramekin.

5. Fill each bread mold with the apple mixture. Add a piece or two of bread to the top and fold over the edges to seal it up completely. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar.

6. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed up. Allow to cool slightly, then run a knife around the edges and invert onto individual plates.

Earl Grey Créme Anglaise

3/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Earl Grey tea bags

1. Bring the milk and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan. Put the tea bags into the milk, and let steep for ten minutes. Then remove the teabags from the milk, making sure to squeeze out all of the liquid.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar thoroughly until the mixture becomes pale yellow.

3. Slowly pour about half of the milk into the eggs, mixing continuously. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk, and cook for a short time over medium heat, stirring constantly.

4. Do not let the mixture boil, and test for readiness by dipping a spatula into it and running your finger over the coated spatula. The creme is done when it is thick enough that the trail wiped away by your finger remains.

5. Remove the saucepan from heat and stir it continuously for another two minutes. To complete cooling quickly, place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and stir the sauce until cool.

No comments: