Apple Charlotte is a traditional British dessert dating back to the 18th century. It is said that it is named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, who was patron to the English apple growers, although another theory is that the name is derived from the Old English word, charlyt, meaning a custard dish, which would date the recipe from as far back as the 15th century.
The British Apple Charlotte shouldn’t be confused with the French Charlotte Russe, which was invented by Antoine Carême (8 June 1784–12 January 1833), after a visit to Russia. It’s a very different cold dessert of Bavarian cream set in a mould lined with ladyfingers or savoiardi.
Apple (and pear, quince etc) Charlotte is a perfect winter dessert – served steaming hot, with a wonderful contrast of crisp outer golden crust concealing the smooth, sweet filling. It can be served with cream, custard or ice cream. Although traditionally made with apples, almost any fruit of your choice will do, as long as they are cooked until the liquid has evaporated.
Preparation: You will need a loaf tin approximately 20cm x 12cm across the top or 6 small non-stick moulds. The total time for preparation and cooking is about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Ingredients (serve 6)
For the filling
1.5kg apples/quinces/pears (approx 4 apples, 2 pears, 1 quince)
2 tbsp of water
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
a handful of sultanas or raisins
50 ml Cognac or Calvados
For the crust
about 15 slices of firm white bread
130g melted butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
Preheat the oven at 200C.
Prepare the fruit filling: Peel and core the apples, pears and quince, chop them roughly into a saucepan then place over a medium heat with the butter, sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Grate the lemon zest into the fruit and squeeze in the lemon juice. Add the cognac and sultanas. Leave it all to soften, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking, until the fruit is tender, which takes about 15 minutes.
Once the fruit has softened, turn up the heat, stirring more regularly now, and let the liquid evaporate. After about 10 minutes you want to end up with a thick chunky filling with no excess juice. Put to one side.
Make the moulds: Cut the crusts off the bread, then cut each slice into 3 fingers. (If using individual moulds, also cut 6 rounds the same size as the base and another 5 rounds the size of the top). Melt the butter in a shallow pan, dip a pastry brush into it, then brush the bread with it on both sides. Line the bottom and sides of the tin with the bread. Make sure there are no spaces left and press the edges of the bread firmly to seal. Spoon in the fruit filling, press down with a spoon so there are no gaps and then cover with the remaining bread or bread rounds. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top.
Bake for 35 minutes if using individual moulds, or 45-50 minutes for one large pudding, until the bread is crisp and deep gold. Remove from the oven and allow it to settle.
Serving: Turn the moulds out carefully onto the plates. Serve with any remaining filling and cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.