Charlotte Russe

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Preparation info

  • Serves

    6–8

    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

By Annie Gray

Published 2019

  • About

Another of Downton’s iconic dishes, charlotte russe is a cold, set sweet dish, with a mixture of Bavarian cream and jelly ringed with sponge finger biscuits. It’s related to trifle, but while trifle is a very English dish, this is very French, and was invented by Chef Antonin Carême in the early nineteenth century. It appears at Downton a lot, sometimes unmentioned but lurking distinctively in the background and at other times brought to the fore. It’s one of the dishes cooked by Ethel for Isobel’s ladies’ luncheon, where she presents it herself, interrupting a showdown between Robert and his wife, daughters, and mother. Mrs. Patmore and Daisy would have made the ladyfinger biscuits in advance. Modern cooks looking for a shortcut may choose to substitute store-bought ladyfingers.

Ingredients

For the Ladyfingers

  • ½ cup (100 g) plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (140 g) flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Strawberry Jelly

  • 2 cups (285 g) strawberries, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 2–4 tablespoons granulated sugar, depending upon the sweetness of the strawberries
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • cup (160 ml) water
  • teaspoons powdered gelatin or 2 gelatin sheets

For the Bavarian Cream

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • cup (140 g) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) milk
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 envelope (about teaspoons) powdered gelatin or 5 gelatin sheets
  • cups (300 ml) heavy cream

For Garnish

  • 10–12 large firm strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, preferably vanilla sugar
  • Other fruits or edible flowers as desired (optional)

Method

To make the ladyfingers, put ½ cup (100 g) of the superfine sugar and the eggs into a heatproof bowl (preferably metal). Rest the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and whisk until the mixture is light and foamy and warmed through. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until the mixture is cold, 10–15 minutes. Fold the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon into the cold yolk mixture just until fully incorporated.

Preheat the oven to 375°F 190°C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Transfer the ladyfinger mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe lengths of the mixture onto the prepared pan, making sure they are about ¾ inch (2 cm) longer than the height of the mold you will be using. Sprinkle the lengths evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons superfine sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers until they are lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Let cool on the pan on a wire rack, then carefully lift them off the parchment and set aside.

To make the jelly, combine the strawberries, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Use a masher or the back of a wooden spoon to crush the strawberries slightly, helping them to yield their juice. Remove from the heat and let steep for 2 hours.

Strain the strawberry mixture through a wire-mesh sieve lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth placed over a bowl or pitcher. Don’t force the mixture through the sieve or the jelly will be cloudy. Let gravity do the work. Measure the strawberry juice, add water as needed to total about 1 cup (240 ml), and set aside for the strawberry jelly. Reserve the strawberries for another use, or purée and then strain them to make a sauce for the cream.

To make the Bavarian cream, in a bowl, briefly beat the water and egg yolks with a wire whisk or an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar, whisking constantly or beating with the electric mixer on medium speed, until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and drops from the beaters in a thick ribbon when they are lifted from the bowl, about 3 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk just until bubbles appear at the edge of the pan. Slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly just until combined. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens into a custard thick enough to coat a spoon. (Do not allow to boil or the eggs will curdle.) Pour the custard through a strainer into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Mix the powdered gelatin with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and let stand for 2 minutes to soften; if using the gelatin sheets, place them in a bowl, add cold water to cover, and let soak until floppy, 5–10 minutes.

Add the softened gelatin. (If using powdered gelatin, first liquefy it by nesting the small bowl of gelatin in a larger bowl of hot water, or heating it in the microwave for 5 seconds.) Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.

Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice and water. Place the bowl with the custard over the ice water bath and stir often until cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Using a wire whisk or electric mixer, beat the cream to soft peaks and fold into the cooled custard mixture.

Recipe card from the set of Downton Abbey

For the garnish, stem the strawberries, then slice them lengthwise thickly but evenly. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with the granulated sugar, and toss gently. Cover and leave for 2 hours.

Remove the bottom from a 6or 7-inch (15or 18-cm) round springform pan and put the pan ring on the plate on which you plan to serve the charlotte. Cut one end off of each ladyfinger so they all have a nice flat end and are the same height. Use them to line the pan ring, standing them up vertically with the rounded end at the top. They will be slightly squishy, so you can press them into one another to keep them in place.

Carefully spoon the custard into the ladyfinger-lined ring and spread it out gently with the back of a spoon to secure the ladyfingers in place. Put the mold in the fridge for 30–45 minutes to set the custard more firmly.

Meanwhile, finish preparing the jelly: Mix the powdered gelatin with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and let stand for 2 minutes to soften; if using the gelatin sheets, place them in a bowl, add cold water to cover, and let soak until floppy, 5–10 minutes. Stir the liquefied gelatin into the strawberry juice. (If using powdered gelatin, first liquefy it by nesting the small bowl of gelatin in a larger bowl of hot water, or heating it in the microwave for 5 seconds.) Stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Prepare another ice water bath in a large bowl. Nestle the bowl with the strawberry jelly in the ice water bath and stir often until thickened, about 15 minutes. Pour the jelly over the chilled custard. Cover the charlotte and chill for 1–2 hours.

Unclip the springform pan ring and carefully lift it off. The ladyfingers will probably attempt to collapse slowly, which is why charlottes are often served, including at Downton, with a natty ribbon tied around their middle. It’s a very good idea to have a ribbon handy, especially if you are unmolding this more than a few minutes before serving. Tie the ribbon securely round the middle and then arrange the sliced strawberries on top. You can add other fresh fruit, edible flowers, or candied fruit as you prefer.

ROBERT: We’re leaving.

ETHEL: Is this because of me, my lord?

CORA: No, it is because of his Lordship. And we are not leaving. It’s a Charlotte Russe? How delicious.

ETHEL: I hope it’s tasty, m’lady. Mrs. Patmore gave me some help.

CORA: I’m glad to know Mrs. Patmore has a good heart and does not judge. Is anyone coming?

VIOLET: It seems a shame to miss such a good pudding.

˜ SEASON 3, EPISODE 6

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