Monday, February 04, 2013

Downton Abbey with a side of Apple Charlotte

Well, I did it!  Five episodes from the third season of Downton Abbey have had a British or period dessert accompaniment!  This has been no small feat but it has sure been fun.

This week, I chose to prepare an Apple Charlotte

This dish was referenced by Mrs. Hughes during the second season and I have been wondering about it ever since.  This site provides a little background on the dessert which was fun to read.

Like most of the items I have prepared this season, I had never tried an Apple Charlotte but I was intrigued.  How can bread + apples = delicious dessert?  I am not certain I would trade this for apple pie but I do believe I have found a new way to make my apple pie filling.  The smells in my house were absolutely divine!  In fact, it smelled just like Main Street USA in Disneyland! 

I thought Apple Charlotte was a breeze to make and absolutely fool-proof.  If you have difficulty making pie dough, this is the dessert for you!

So, what did I do?  There are two steps.  First, the filling...

Ingredients for the filling:

8 large apples (I used Pink Lady apples but Golden Delicious or Granny Smith would work well)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean split and scraped)
Juice from 1 lemon (plus a little grated lemon zest)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 teaspoons whiskey or brandy (optional)

Peel, core and cut apples into 1/2-inch chunks.  In a large skillet, melt butter.  Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest, sugar, cinnamon, and whiskey or brandy if using.  Stir mixture well and add apples.

Toss to coat and cook until sauce is reduced to a thick caramel and apples are tender, about 25 minutes.  Ahh... lovely and golden.

Next, the bread shell... (I forgot to take this picture! -- oops!)

Ingredients for bread shell:
1 loaf white sandwich bread (crusts removed)
2 large eggs
whole milk (about 1/4 cup - eyeball it)
Small splash of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Cinnamon Sugar for sprinkling on top.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Generously butter a large casserole dish and set aside.  In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon to make a French toast batter.  Quickly dip bread slices one by one and layer into the casserole dish, overlapping all edges to create a complete seal around the base and sides. 

Add apples and sauce, pressing to ensure all gaps are filled.  This step is critical to ensuring the Charlotte does not collapse once inverted from the mold. 

Dip more bread slices and layer over the top, creating a seal.  Sprinkle top of casserole with cinnamon sugar. 

Place onto a baking sheet, in the middle of the oven.  Bake 40 - 45 minutes, until bread is crisp and golden brown.

Upon removing from the oven, use a knife to run along the edge to make sure it the sides release.  Allow to cool in dish until set.  Then, while still warm, invert onto a plate.  The result is like a patchwork quilt... lovely. 

Cut like an apple pie and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  A yummy, easy treat!

Peace, love and Downton on!

(Meme retrieved from Downton Abbey Facebook page)

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