Simple and pretty fruit charlotte makes an excellent dessert for any occasion.
A fruit charlotte is a dessert with a delicious double layer of custard, ladyfinger crust, and bejeweled with sweet, plump fruit. It's simple and elegant, and one of my favourite desserts of all time.
Perfect for any occasion, a fruit charlotte can be quite adaptable. I prefer mine plain, but additions like candied fruit mixed into the custard is common. The custard can be flavoured with cocoa, or fruit powders, even Jell-O.
This charlotte can be made in almost any size, round pan with a removeable bottom like a spring-form pan. But the smaller the circumference, the taller the sides need to be. Try not to go deeper than the length of the ladyfingers though, as a wee bit of a "crust" formed by the ends of the ladyfingers poking up adds a finished look.
The ladyfingers need to be dipped in a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar) to ensure they soften and stick together. I add a little extract to the simple syrup, usually a fruit flavour, but this can be adapted to suit your taste. (I prefer orange, lemon, and rum, or brandy.) Be careful how long you dip the ladyfingers. You want them to soak up some of the syrup but not become mushy.
The recipe below includes directions for a custard from scratch using eggs and dairy. If you need a dairy-free and vegan alternative prepare the custard using Bird's Custard Powder. Bird's is dairy- and egg-free, and easy to prepare. However, it will be softer in the cake than the version below, so make sure it is refrigerated overnight to stiffen up as much as possible. (I will even freeze the charlotte for an hour before adding the fruits so that it can be cleanly cut when using Bird's.)
TIP: There are some fruits that contain high levels of proteases, like pineapple, kiwi, mango, ginger root, papaya, figs or guava, which break chemical bonds in proteins. This is why using these fruits in recipes with gelatine can cause problems and prevent the gelatine from setting. If you want to use these they need to be cooked, not fresh.
TIP: Canned or frozen fruits can be used when making a charlotte, just make sure they are well drained.
(Makes 16 servings)
1 cup monk fruit sweetener (or granulated sugar)
1 cup water
1 teaspoon pure orange extract (or other flavour)
1, 1/2 tablespoons powdered agar agar (or equal amount gelatine powder)
1/4 cup cold water
5 large eggs
1 cup monk fruit sweetener (or granulated sugar)
1 cup whole milk
2, 1/2 cups whipping cream, very cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, cold
40 ladyfingers (number depends on circumference of pan used)
14 whole strawberries, hulled
1 cup blueberries
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the cup or water and cup of sweetener. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sweetener is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, mix in the pure orange extract.
Dip each ladyfinger into the syrup and arrange on end around the side of an 8-inch springform pan, placing them tightly side by side. Line the bottom of the pan with a layer of dipped ladyfingers and set aside, reserving the syrup and remaining ladyfingers.
In a bowl, add the 1/4 cup water and mix in the gelatine powder. Set aside to hydrate.
In a large pot, or the bottom of a double boiler, add several inches of water and place over medium-high heat. While waiting for the water to heat, add the eggs and sugar into a saucepan that will fit over the large pot without touching the water inside, or in the top section of the double boiler, so that it will form a bain-marie when it is time to heat the mixture. Whisk the eggs and sugar together then whisk in the milk. Lower the heat under the large pot to medium and place the pot with the egg mixture over it so the steam from below heats the bottom of the saucepan. Continue whisking the egg mixture until it just starts to show signs that it is beginning to boil. Remove the egg mixture from the heat and mix in the softened gelatine until it is completely dissolved. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
In a large, cold bowl, add the whipping cream and the pure vanilla extract. Using an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula, fold in the cooled egg and gelatine mixture until combined.
Transfer half of the whipped custard filling into the pan over the base layer of ladyfingers and smooth out the surface trying to not leave any air pockets. Add a second layer of dipped ladyfingers over the filling. Add the remaining filling over the second layer of ladyfingers and smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Refrigerate the charlotte overnight, or for a minimum of 8 hours to allow the filling to set.
The next day, carefully remove the springform sides and decorate with the strawberries and blueberries. Cut and serve.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
total calories = 228 | total fat = 14.45g | saturated fat = 8.91g | cholesterol = 124.69mg | sodium = 64.06mg | net carbohydrates = 40.55g | dietary fibre = 1.2g | sugars = 10.37g | protein = 5.5g