Saturday, March 1, 2008

Charlotte aux pommes, crème anglaise au Calvados (Apple Charlotte served with Calvados custard sauce)

Charlotte aux pommes is an 18th century classic recipe named after the German wife of King George III of England who was said to have a special affinity for apple growers. According to this link, charlottes were “invented” in England. It’s a molded dessert, traditionally baked in a mold called a “charlotte mold” that has two handles and slightly flared sides. You could use individual ramekins as well.

Charlotte aux pommes consists of a layer of toasty bread around the outside with apple compote in the center. It sounds like a blend of apple pie and bread pudding.

Use apples that are firm, such as Golden Delicious, to help hold the charlotte’s shape. This tip comes from Julia Child who made this charlotte on live television in the 1960s on her series called "The French Chef" and watched it collapse after unmolding it.

"One of the secrets of cooking is to learn to correct something if you can, and bear with it if you cannot." ~Julia Child
Charlotte aux pommes is typically served with crème anglaise, which is also a classic dessert sauce dating back to the 19th century.

Crème anglaise contains sugar, yolks, milk, and vanilla, but it can be flavored with all sorts of delicious things such as cardamom, rum, chocolate, ginger, chamomile, brandy, Grand Marnier, espresso, or even stout! Crème anglaise is a “stirred” custard as opposed to a “baked” custard. It must be stirred constantly so that it doesn’t curdle at the bottom of the pan or overcook. Because it’s stirred, it doesn’t thicken as much as a crème brulée or crème caramel which thickens in the oven.

It’s a rich, smooth sauce that can be served warm or cold. It is also common as a base for making ice creams.

Calvados is an apple brandy from the Basse-Normandie region of France.
map from Wikipedia

Given that I only needed about 5 tablespoons, I went to the local liquor store looking for the smallest bottle I could find. For $45, I could have a 750 mL sized bottle! And that was the lowest priced bottle I could find. One that had been aged for 30 years in French oak casks would set me back almost $300. So, I settled for dark rum instead.

Recipe for Charlotte aux pommes from Le Cordon Bleu at Home

Apple Compote
3 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and diced
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
¼ cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

9-10 slices firm white bread
½-¾ cup clarified butter

Prepare the apple compote: Combine the diced apples and the water in a saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to keep the apples from sticking to the pan. Stir in the sugar, butter, jam, rum, and vanilla. Raise the heat to medium and continue cooking, uncovered, until all the moisture has evaporated and the compote is thick and stiff, about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Remove the crusts from the bread and trim the bread into 4-inch squares. Cut 6 of the slices in half to make 12 rectangles; set aside. Trace the bottom of the mold onto 4 slices of bread and cut the bread so that it will fit inside the bottom of the mold.

Line the charlotte mold. Butter the bottom of the mold. Put a circle of parchment paper on the bottom. Cut a long rectangle that will be put in the middle to help to pull out the mold after it’s baked.

Cut out the pieces of bread that will fit on the bottom of the mold. Dip them in clarified butter and fry them until they’re toasted and golden. Arrange the bottom pieces of bread in the bottom of the mold.

Dip the remaining pieces of bread in clarified butter as you arrange them. Arrange the rectangles around the inside of the mold so that they overlap generously. The bread should extend slightly above the rim of the mold. (You can use a pair of scissors to trim the edges so that they all line up nicely.)

Fill the lined mold with the apple compote, mounding it in the center. (This is important because the compote tends to sink in the middle when cooking.)

Bake the charlotte 15 minutes, then cover with parchment paper or foil to keep the exposed ends of bread from burning. As it bakes, check it and press down the top to give it more structure. Continue baking until the bread is golden, about 20 minutes longer. Allow to cool for about an hour before unmolding. After unmolding to a serving dish, paint the apricot glaze on. Serve with crème anglaise.

Here's a useful (and sometimes humorous) video of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin making Charlotte aux pommes:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Recipe for Crème Anglaise from Le Cordon Bleu at Home

1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons dark rum

Put the milk, vanilla, and rum into a heavy-bottomed saucepan (or over a water bath) and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and whisk until thick and pale yellow. The mixture should form a ribbon when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Gradually whisk in half of the hot milk. (This is called tempering since you don’t want to scramble the eggs. The key is to do this slowly to bring the egg mixture up to temperature without curdling them.) Then whisk in the remaining milk and rum (or Calvados).

Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Do not boil since it will curdle if boiled. (If it does curdle, either strain or blend in a blender, adding cream if necessary. Or, start over.)

Remove the custard from the heat and strain it into a bowl. Let it cool in a bowl set of an ice water bath to stop the cooking, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It keeps for a couple of days.

Here's another useful video on making Crème anglaise.

Method for Apricot Glaze from Le Cordon Bleu at Home

⅓ cup Apricot Jam
1-2 tablespoons water
½ tablespoon dark rum

Work the jam through a fine sieve into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of water to thin jam, then cook over low heat until the glaze is smooth and syrupy. The glaze should form a ribbon when the whisk is lifted from the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur (such as Calvados), if using. Dip a pastry brush into the warm glaze and put it gently over the surface of the charlotte to coat it completely with the glaze. If the glaze becomes too thick to work with, add a little water and reheat.

Method for clarified butter

Clarified butter is also known as “drawn butter”. Here are some pros and cons of using clarified butter:

It keeps longer because it doesn’t have the milk in it to go rancid.
It has a higher smoke point.
It has a buttery taste that oils don’t have.
It doesn’t have the rich flavor of regular unsalted butter.

Melt the unsalted butter slowly in a saucepan over low heat. Don’t stir. Let it sit so that the milk solids and water separate from the butter fat. Skim the foam from the surface. Remove from the heat and let stand a few minutes until the milk solids settle to the bottom. Carefully pour the clear yellow liquid (the clarified butter) into a container, leaving the milk solids in the bottom of the saucepan; discard the solids.

A stick (8 tablespoons) of butter will produce about 6 tablespoons of clarified butter. For the apple compote, you will need about 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter.


I’d like to try experimenting with this recipe using pears or different bread, such as Brioche. Some cinnamon, lemon peel, and nutmeg would be nice. Maybe some raisins and a different flavored crème anglaise. I’d also like to try serving this in individual ramekins.

Tasting Notes:

“It’s better than apple pie” was what my 8 year old said! Now that’s a compliment. The crunchiness of the toasted bread, coupled with the bite of the apple compote and the smooth, richness of the crème anglaise made this dessert absolutely delicious. Another keeper!

Since I don't have a Charlotte mold, I used a 4-cup soufflé dish and a 4-cup fluted pudding mold. Both worked fine, and the fluted one even looked scalloped after baking. However, my structure of bread didn’t hold up very well. Next time, actually dipping the bread in the clarified butter and using more bread for the walls would be better. As you can see from the picture, the Charlotte needs more reinforcement!

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $180.66 + $7.94 (Charlotte) + $2.07 (Crème anglaise) + $.99 (Apricot glaze) = $191.66

Butter used so far: 4 pounds, 19.5 tablespoons


Anonymous said...

This sounds scrumptious. What could be better than a pairing of bread pudding and apple pie? Love the photo!!

Anonymous said...

bread pudding + apple pie = scruptious, plus it has a fancy name! and i love the pic of the little glass of creme anglaise.

i never knew that's the proper pronunciation of calvados. i always imagined it as cal-VA-dos.

Shari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah said...

What a gorgeous dessert!

Thistlemoon said...

I love Creme Anglaise! Yours looks so creamy and perfect! Wonderful photos as well!

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

Shari said...

After more research, I've found that Calvados is NOT pronounced CALvado, but has the accent on the end and the final-S is pronounced ( You can hear the pronunciation in the following link: du Calvados

Thanks for making me do my homework!

Shari said...

leftover queen - Thanks for adding me to The Foodie Blogroll. I'll start working on my blog entry.

Anonymous said...

Its official - Charlotte aux pommes has shot past apple pie as my favourite dessert. Wicked-scrumptious. You could say that I'm developing a "special affinity" for apple BAKERS!! haha

Suruchi K said...

I just stumbled on your site looking for an Apple Charlotte recipe. OMG, I just LOOOVE your visual ingredient list. WHERE has this approach been all my life?! Thank you!!!