Apple Charlotte

Napoleon invaded Russia and lost. Embarrassed and frustrated, he declared that it wasn’t the Russian generals who had defeated the hitherto victorious French army, but General Frost – the harsh Russian winter.

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Some of the non-military, auxiliary French personnel decided not to risk frostbites or even death, and to remain in Russia. A barber is a barber, they figured, and a French chef is always a French chef, and a whiff of civilization will only benefit the Russian bear. The bear proved quite appreciative, and a French chef Marie-Antoine Carême got a coveted position at the emperor’s court – the Russian emperor’s, Tzar Alexander I The Blessed.

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The Tzar ordered his new chef to create a dessert that would be definitively and recognizably not French. The chef encountered a problem: there was no flour left in the royal pantry.  “Don’t be silly, – advised his sous chef, also French, – make something out of stale bread, they always have plenty of that, these barbarians won’t know the difference!” There really was, and always has been plenty of dried stale bread in Russia, as Russians preserve bread by drying slices of old bread in the oven to make a type of crackers called sukhari – literally dry bread. The chef took up the idea, tweaked it a bit, filled it with jam, and the new cake was born. Even though he wanted to call it Alexander, to honor his new employer, modest Tzar insisted that the cake be dedicated to his sister-in-law Charlotte, thus the name Charlotte Russe. The name immediately got russified into charlotka, to rhyme with lodka (boat), vodka (no translation needed!) and molodka (young woman).

This is only one of the several legends about the origin of this well-known and well-liked dessert. There are at least two more royal Charlottes to whom it might have been dedicated. There is a theory that disregards all ladies named Charlotte and ascribes the name to an old English word  charlyt which means “a dish of custard.” The chef’s name appears constant in all sources, though, as well as the name of his boss, the Tzar. Most importantly, no one disputes the classic recipe based on stale bread, even though there are many variations nowadays that include bread crumbs, sponge cake, and – the most popular! – ladyfingers. Filling also varies, from jams, to fresh fruit, to custard, to gelatin.

Charlotte 1.jpg

The classic recipe is a perfect way for me to avoid cluttering my freezer with a collection of leftover challah pieces. As soon as I have enough for a charlotka, I grab a few apples and make my husband very happy (this is the one he likes the most). Technically, frozen bread is not stale, but it’s not fresh either, and it works just fine. My grandmother preferred rye bread leftovers, sometimes mixed with challah. That was the best! I don’t have rye bread but my challahs are either spelt or whole wheat, or a combination of both. Also, usually there are either raisins or chocolate chips in them which contributes to the final product. I add more raisins, though, as well as chopped walnuts, both brown sugar and Blue Agave, Smart Balance instead of butter, a pinch of cinnamon, and a dash of salt.

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I cut bread into 1/2 inch (about 1 cm) cubes first. I’ve seen it crumbled or processed into bread crumbs, but I stick to the classic cube method that lends more texture. If it had been frozen, it will be easier to cut when it’s defrosted a little.

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Melted butter substitute, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of salt are added to the bowl with bread cubes and mixed in. Put it aside and let it rest for now. Let’s do the apples.

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Actually, charlotka could be made with any fruit, not necessarily apples, as well as jam, or custard, or both jam and custard. I make apple charlotka only because it happens to be my husband’s favorite. So apples get peeled and cut into pieces roughly 1/2 of the bread cube pieces.

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In a separate bowl, mix apples with raisins, nuts (I use walnuts, but pecans are also good here), and agave. This has to be done quickly before apple pieces start turning brown.

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Finally, you grease your baking dish and layer bread cubes and apple filling, starting with bread cubes on the bottom and ending with them on top.If you like, you can also just line the bottom with bread cubes, place all the filling on top of it, and then cover it with the remaining bread cubes. It will give you less overall saturation but more intense filling taste. Your choice!

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I love baking it in a crock pot, but it could be baked in the oven, too. Elementary, my dear Watson, – what did they do before they invented crock pots? They baked in ovens.

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It sits there for quite a while, but it’s always a good idea to visit it before your timer beeps at you. Pick up an apple piece and test it by rubbing it between two fingers. If it feels soft, a second indicator is required. Stick a spatula between the side of the cake and the pot. If it separates from the pot easily yet holds together, it’s done. Remove from heat and run the spatula around the sides and on the bottom, making sure it isn’t sticking anywhere. Let it cool off. Even if you intend to serve it warm, it still has to cool a little in order to come out of the pot.

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When it is still pretty warm but not piping hot, carefully flip it onto a serving platter, in the same way as you would flip an upside down cake. With a spatula, tuck in all stray pieces to preserve a uniform shape. You can serve it with whipped cream, custard, or mousse, but we prefer it just like this, naked.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 slices (4 cups) stale of frozen bread, cubed
  • 3 – 4 large apples (2 cups), cut
  • 3/4 cup butter or substitute (Smart Balance), melted
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1.4 agave
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 – 2 oz raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash of salt

PROCEDURE

  • Cut bread into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes, place in mixing bowl.
  • Add melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, mix well. Put aside.
  • Peel and cut apples into pieces 1/2 size of bread cubes, place in separate bowl.
  • Add walnuts, raisins, agave, mix well.
  • Grease crock pot or baking dish. If baking in oven, preheat oven to 350. Layer bread cubes and apple filling, starting with bread cubes on the bottom and finishing with bread cubes on top.
  • Alternatively, line the bottom with 1/2 of bread cubes, place entire filling in the middle, cover with remaining 1/2 of bread cubes.
  • Crock pot: bake on high for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, on low 3 1/2 – 4 hours.
  • Oven: bake covered for 30 – 35 minutes.
  • Check for doneness: test apple piece for softness by rubbing it between two gingers. Check cake by running spatula between cake and crock pot or baking dish. Charlotka is done when it easily separates from the pot / baking dish.
  • Remove from heat, cool slightly. While it is still warm, f;ip onto serving dish upside down. With spatula, pick up any pieces that have fallen off and pat them onto the cake, to preserve shape.
  • Garnish and serve.

Enjoy!

 

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49 Comments Add yours

  1. my husband’s favourite cake! I love the story, I’ve used various recipes for apple Charlotte, but none had walnuts or agave, so I think I know what I’m baking this weekend 🙂 I’ve never actually used challah bread crumbs (I’ve been using brioche very often, though my husband’s favourite version is with very short dough-lots of butter!) which is silly, because I bake challah very often (again, my husband’s favourite-seems like he has quite a few favourites). Thank you 🙂 I really like your blog, btw 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I thank you so much, and it is eminently mutual, as I really like yours, and I love following the lives of Lily and Brian.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sumith Babu says:

    Interesting reading that story!! It should be yummy I bet😊

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Clever tasty way of using leftover bread!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’d love to take credit for it, but I did not invent it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, it’s a classic. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. kelleysdiy says:

    Was this hard to make…for a normal, average cook like myself?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Honestly, it looks easy when you are doing it, but I wouldn’t undertake something that involves spraying chemicals on glass without in-house expert guidance (although I’ve similar comments about sushi making).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. kelleysdiy says:

        so your heading over???

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re heading over! You spray glass, I make sushi – or whatever you desire – and everybody is happy. Ah, forgot: husbands drink rum, smoke cigars, and talk football.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. kelleysdiy says:

        did you see the hack I made on Vodka?

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah, and I was wondering… We don’t even have vodka in the house, and you’re not even Russian – secret vice?

        Liked by 1 person

      5. kelleysdiy says:

        No!Even a sip of Vodka gives me a hangover..My love is Rum!

        Liked by 2 people

      6. You’re definitely my kind of a person!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. kelleysdiy says:

        Pina Colada…Mai Tai….love them

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Mojito… Cuba Libre…

        Liked by 1 person

      9. kelleysdiy says:

        Now I’m thirsty!!! hahaa

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Don’t know about you, I am having a Cuba Libre right now…

        Like

  5. Reblogged this on ACTUATE and commented:
    Letting my oven do the traveling this weekend with this sweet treat via @koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com –

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging and for your sweet comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank You for sharing! I’ve been looking online for a apple cobbler type recipe since tuesday –and none hit the spot. Now I’m excited to try this one.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on koolkosherkitchen and commented:

    This is the time of the year when we are getting ready for Passover by frantically searching for ways to use up leftover bread. Fortunately, I don’t have that much, but I was asked by some Beautiful People for a bread pudding recipe, so for lack of bread to make a new one, I am repeating one of the very few chocolate-less recipes I have. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As usual enjoyed the background to it but I have to say your husband does get all the baked goodies. I would be in seventh heaven. Also, I shall write up the French toast bit in a few days. Hope that is okay 🙂 I want to take a shot or two to go with it which means I have got to make and eat it (aah).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Of course my husband gets all the baked goodies, as well as all the cooked goodies – it’s just the two of us, and he has a major sweet tooth! Whenever you make it, photograph it, and eat it, is great, just don’t forget to photograph first and eat later!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ahahahha, you’ve got me pat down 😀 xx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL Have a nice weekend, dear!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Joëlle says:

    I see I am not the only one to freeze bread! One of the (many) drawbacks of gluten-free bread is that it is too dense to soak up any liquid as well as normal bread. Still, I hate wasting. So stale bread slices end up as croutons in a salad, cut up and fried in oil and garlic.
    I love charlotte with custard. Can I share an incredible (not mine, obviously!) charlotte, originated from England? The recipe was on French TV last fall:
    http://www.m6.fr/emission-le_meilleur_patissier/photos-la_charlotte_royale_de_mercotte-77839/
    Thank you once again for your story and recipe. You are a beautiful lady!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the link; it is incredible! Wow!
      We usually do not have bread during the week at all, but on Shabbos (Sabbath) we are required not only to have bread and to pronounce a specific blessing over it, but also have a certain volume of bread. Most of the time we have guests for Shabbos dinner, and almost always there is bread left over, so I freeze it. Some of it goes into certain meat dishes, but before Passover, we have to get rid of every crumb, so we get really creative.
      You are a beautiful lady yourself, darling! Thank you for your kind comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. spearfruit says:

    This is looks and sounds very yummy – thank you Dolly. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Terry!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a great story! Thanks for it and the recipe….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are very welcome, dear, I am so glad you like it!

      Like

    1. Thank you for reblogging!

      Like

  11. Osyth says:

    The pâtissières here compete with windows full of delectable delights including tiny miniature Charlotte Russes …. adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, and I miss that! There were a couple of kosher French pâtissières here, so for a few years I was having a time of my life, and then they closed down – bummer!

      Like

  12. Great dish! If you add a bit of lemon/lime juice to the apples it will become even better and the apples will not brown that quickly. Thanks for the reminder of this dish and history!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the lemon tip, and thank you so your wonderful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You had me at apples, raisins and walnuts. Looks delish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much – I am glad you like it! Love your poodles and your blog,
      Dolly

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Many thanks! I loved your fabulous food pics. I think I gained 5 lbs. just looking. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nope! My food is healthy and dietetic, and nobody gains anything but tickled taste buds!
        Thank you for your kind comment!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Balvinder says:

    Yummy bread and apple bake!

    Liked by 1 person

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