Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Can I let you into a little secret,that is if you dont know it already? What is the origin of Charlotte? When taking a closer look at history she was not French born and bred. 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, similar to a pudding.But how did we go from a British dessert that looks nothing like a Charlotte to the French specialty that we know and love 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 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 produced today. Russians love French culture and cuisine, it is a known fact.
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 it today.
It was extremely popular and fashionable during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. My mother used to regularly make Charlotte Russe for her dinner parties when I was young.As was traditional, she included alcohol, such as sherry or brandy, and candied spices.As a child I therefore was never allowed to taste it, not that it really appealed to my prepubescent palate anyway. Her recipe was, I believe, a classic Mrs Beeton recipe and although recognisably similar in texture,it bore very few palatable similarities to the Charlotte Russe or fridge cake that has been popularised today.So with the summer season almost upon us how about a show stopping version with strawberries, rasberries and lashings of cream,hurrah!!
Charlotte de morangos
This incarnation pings with pastel colours and chimes with some of the finest flavours that have ever been collated. But this is much more than a collation, it adds old-world solidity to a classic pudding with an aerated buoyancy of textures. What makes this dish so enjoyable and still so gladsomely alive today is how closely it adheres to those distinctive and traditional, celebratory tastes. It carries with it lashings of new wave energy and colour which its predecessor lacked.
200g lady fingers
300g strawberries (puréed)
80gstrawberriescut int pieces
2 greek yoghurts (2x115g)
2 tsp strawberry jam home- made if possible
6 leaves of gelatine
3 tbsp water
200ml cream
1 soup spoon lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla sugar

To decorate:
sliced  strawberries

Line with plastic clingfilm a 16cm in diameter loose bottomed cake tin (10cm high).Cut your lady fingers to the height of the tin, and set them aside while you make the filling.
Wash the strawberries and reduce to a purée.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.Squeeze out all the water and transfer them to a heatproof metal container with 3 soup spoons of warm water and place over a low flame.If it does not dissolve immediately, raise the heat slightly.Leave to cool a little.In a bowl mix together the strawberry jam with the yoghurt, stir in the gelatine and beat well to amalgamate.In another bowl beat the cream to stiff peaks with the vanilla sugar.Stir the cream into the yoghurt ashallow bowl pour some licore de morango (strawberry licore) I used some rum that I had been macerating arbutus. Dip the lady fingers one by one very briefly into the licore and then stand them up round the edge of your cake tin.Dont let them soak too much or they wont stand up.Pour the yoghurt and cream mixture into the inside of the wall of biscuita and leave to set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Variations on Charlotte Russe:
Apple Charlotte – It is a golden-crusted dessert made by baking a thick apple compote in a mold lined with buttered bread.  This dessert was originally created as a way to use leftover or stale bread. Some historians think that this sweet dish took its name from Queen Charlotte, known as being a supporter of apple growers.
Charlotte Malakoff – It has a lining of ladyfingers and a center filling of a souffle mixture of cream, butter, sugar, a liqueur, chopped almonds, and whipped cream.  It is decorated with strawberries.
Cold Charlottes – They are made in a ladyfinger-lined mold and filled with a Bavarian cream.  For frozen charlottes, a frozen souffle or mousse replaces the Bavarian cream.


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