06 February 2012

Downton Abbey: A Lady, a Cook & a Dessert

Image from Downton Abbey
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like lovelies, to be the lady of the house.


I wonder what it would be like to be the lady of the house where everyone listens to you, that is. Clearly a DREAM. One that cannot even be conjured up by the likes of television. As Cora Grantham may seem to wonder the same thing in private. Sure she was challenged as the head of the now convalescent Abbey by none other then the mother of Lord Grantham's heir. Feasible. She's been challenged by her daughters at every turn by their behavior. Realistic. But by the cook, Mrs. Patmore? Well, that's beyond the bounds of decency! And over the dessert no less...
Remember when Lady Grantham wanted Apple Charlotte for dessert as it was their impending guests faVorite. & Mrs. Patmore categorically said "No."

Image from Downton Abbey
We later learned that Mrs. Patmore's sight was failing. So getting the ingredients for a new recipe was out of the question. But we're talking about classism right? When does the word"No" become an option by the staff to utter? When does a lady except anything but the word "Yes" by the staff? Especially when we're talking about Apple Charlotte.

I first saw Apple Charlotte made by Julia Child with Jaques Pepin on a television show. The bread mold was soaked in butter by Julia (the extent of which even surprised Pepin), & the center over flowing with apples. This is NOT a fat friendly dish. But does it look delectable when done correctly. While I have yet to make one like Mrs. Patmore, you may be interested in making one yourself. Or better yet...demand one of your cook. No excuses need apply.

Apple Charlotte Image from BakingandBooks.com
Charlotte Aux Pommes

  • 6 lbs firm nonjuicy cooking apples (Golden Delicious are always reliable)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 3 Tb butter
  • 10 to 12 slices of homemade type white bread, 4 inches square and ¼ inch thick
  • 1 cup clarified butter
  • ½ cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve
  • 3 Tb dark rum
  • 2 Tb granulated sugar
  • Optional: 2 cups crème anglaise (custard sauce) or 2 cups lightly whipped cream flavored with rum and powdered sugar


  • A heavy-bottomed stainless or enameled pan 12 inches across
  • A wooden spoon
  • A 6-cup, fireproof, cylindrical mold about 3½ inches high
  • A pan
  • A serving platter

Quarter, peel, and core the apples. Slice them roughly into 1/8-inch pieces. You should have about 4 quarts. Place in pan, cover, and cook over very low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
Uncover and beat in the apricot preserves, sugar, vanilla, rum, and butter. Raise heat and boil, stirring almost continuously until water content has all but evaporated—20 minutes or more. The purée should be a very thick and fairly stiff paste which holds itself in a solid mass in the spoon.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Remove crusts from the bread. Cut a square and 4 semicircles of bread to fit the bottom of the mold exactly. Sauté to a very light golden color in 3 or 4 tablespoons of the clarified butter. Fit them into the bottom of the mold. Cut the rest of the bread into strips 1¼ inches wide. Dip in clarified butter and fit them, overlapping each other, around the inner circumference of the mold. Trim off protruding ends.
Pack the apple purée into the mold, allowing it to form a dome about ¾ inch high in the middle. (It will sink as it cools.) Cover with 4 or 5 butter-dipped bread strips. Pour any remaining clarified butter over the ends of the bread around the edges of the mold.
Set in a pan (to catch butter drippings) and bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Slip a knife between bread and sides of mold; if bread is golden brown, the charlotte is done. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Reverse the mold on a serving platter and lift the mold up a few inches to see if the sides of the dessert will hold. If there is any suggestion of collapse, lower the mold over the dessert again; it will firm up as it cools. Test after 5 minutes or so, until the mold can safely be removed.
Boil the apricot, rum, and sugar until thick and sticky. Spread it over the charlotte. Serve the dessert hot, warm, or cold, with the optional sauce or cream.

© 1961, 1983, 2001 Alfred A. Knopf

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