Apple Charlotte

I have just realized that October is a National Apple Month, yet today is the last day of it, and I have not posted any apple recipes. To remedy the situation, I am repeating one of our favorites.

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 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.

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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 charlotka, I grab a few apples and make my husband very happy (this is dessert 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, flip 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!

36 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging, dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. purpleslob says:

    Yum!! Anything you make is delectable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear purple person! But you’ve never actually tasted anything I made…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. purpleslob says:

        I can tell by the pix!! Didn’t you notice me licking the screen every time? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah! And I was wondering what those wet lavender spots on my screen were…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. purpleslob says:

        Bwahahahaha!! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks wonderful! I can smell the cinnamon from here:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Becky.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A very tasty way of using leftover bread! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Ronit.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. 15andmeowing says:

    Thank you for the recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU for stopping by, darling.

      Like

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. With the history in the mind, every shared recipe is a wonderful unique one. Thank you very much, Dolly! xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU for your kind comment, dear Miachel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you as well for reminding on this wonderful story of the Golem, and the wonderfu recipes, Dolly! Have a nice week! xx Michael

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The week is coming to an end, thankfully. I am so looking forward to a peaceful Shabbos, Michael!
        Have a wonderful weekend, dear friend.

        Like

    1. You are very kind, dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A lovely apple recipe, thanks Dolly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for a kind comment, dear Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It sounds good, a nice change from the usual apple pie, even though we love apple pie. May i ask what it means when you say 1.4 Agave? Is that a quarter cup?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, darling, it’s a quarter cup, or to taste. I am sorry about the typo.
      Thank you so much, dear Mimi; I am so glad you like it.

      Like

  8. Makes me hungry just to read your posts, Dolly. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Anna!

      Like

  9. Lulu: “Mmm, apples! Dada says his favorite apple dessert is Apple Pandowdy. The only reason he even knows what it is is that he used to bring shoo-fly pie for Thanksgiving to his uncle’s house and one year one of his uncle’s friends sang a little song about it that included the lyrics ‘shoo-fly pie and apple pandowdy’, so of course he had to go look it up and make it next time.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Our Mama says she’s never heard of those and had to look them up. Now she wants to make them, but we don’t think she will give some to us. Sigh…
      The Cat Gang

      Like

  10. Great to hear the story behind the dessert.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Kaiti.

      Like

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