Monday, September 08, 2008

Charlotte and Biscuits à la Cuillère (Ladyfingers)

As summer comes to a brutal end here in Switzerland, I want to post this to say farewell to lovely berries. I particularly enjoyed them this year, especially the rasperries. (If I have the time I'll post about another berry recipe I made using red currants. It was a partial failure, but still encouraging).

I've never made a charlotte before, though these are fairly common desserts in France. While on vacation there in July, I bought a charlotte mold on a whim, and making one became a priority project for some unfathomable reason. The fact the mold had to be abandoned somewhere near Geneva in our broken down car (we had a rather difficult trip home from vacation, but all is well now) did not deter me. I went ahead and made a charlotte in a simple ring mold. Oh and of course I had to make my own ladyfingers.

For the charlotte mousse I combined two recipes. I used Nick Malgieri's idea of using ricotta (half the calories of cream), but preferred Hermé's use of fresh raspberry juice. Malgieri likes to concentrate fruit juices by boiling them down a little. Perhaps it works, but in his recipe Hermé warns agains heating the raspberry juice as it might give a jam-like flavor to the final product.

The final result was delicious, light yet very satisfying. I would gladly make it again, even though it contains gelatin.

Recipe: Biscuits à la cuillère

Source: Pierre Hermé, Le Larousse du Chocolat

- 55g flour (type 45, ie not strong flour)
- 6 egg yolks
- 85g sugar
- 3 egg whites

- Preheat oven to 220°C*.
- Sift flour. Whip egg yolks with 50g sugar until the mixture turns whitish.
- Whip the egg whites until stiff, adding the remaining 35g of sugar gradually.
- Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg white mixture.
- Sprinkle on the flour and fold it in very carefully too, so as not to deflate the mixture.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Pipe fingers between 4cm and 10cm long and 1.5cm wide using a plain tip (#7 in France, about 1 cm wide?).
- Bake for 15 minutes*.

*Either the temperature is too high, or the baking time is too long, but my ladyfingers turned a little too dark and I pulled them out before they were done.

- Hermé doesn't mention this but Malgieri does: dust the fingers with sifted confectionners' sugar before baking them.

Lining the mold: if you are using a ring mold, you can pipe a spiral into the shape of a circle to cover the bottom of your mold. After baking, fit it into the mold, and trim it so that the fingers can be wedged between the ladyfinger circle and the sides of the pan. Trim each finger so that it is flush with the next as you stand them up around the sides of the pan.

Recipe: Raspberry Charlotte

Sources: this recipe is a combination of Nick Malgieri's Low-calorie raspberry charlotte (Perfect Pastry) and Pierre Hermé's Charlotte aux fruits rouges (Secrets Gourmands)

- One charlotte mold or 20 cm spring-form pan lined with lady fingers
- 335g rasperries (frozen and thawed)
- 90g sugar or less
- 7-9g gelatin sheets (I used 7)
- 1/2 TB lemon juice
- 90g egg whites (about 3)
- 252g ricotta or 187g heavy cream (I used the ricotta)

1. Boil sugar with 2 TB water until 118°C
2. Whip egg whites stiff, then add sugar syrup in a stream while whisking. Whip until cool (this is the Italian meringue)
3. Mix raspberries and lemon juice in a blender, then filter
4. Soak gelatin sheets in cold water. Rince. Squeeze out water then melt gently in a small pan over boiling water (double boiler)
5. Add 1/4 of the raspberry pulp to the gelatin, then pour contents into the rest of the raspberry pulp

a) Recipe with ricotta
6a. Blend ricotta with raspberries
7a. Fold in the cooled Italian meringue

b) Recipe with cream
6b. Add the meringue to the raspberry pulp
7b. Whip the cream and fold it into the raspberry-meringue mixture (whose temperature should not be above 20°C)

8. Pour the mixture into the cake pan that is lined with biscuits à la cuillère. Smooth with a spatula. Freeze for one hour, or refrigerate for six to eight hours.
9. Unmold, decorate with fresh berries and serve, with a rapsberry coulis (sauce) if you have one (I didn't).

I was concerned about the lumpy aspect of this mousse, but it turned out OK

It was tricky getting all the little ladyfinger soldiers to stand at attention long enough to pour the filling in

Convinced as I was this was going to flop, I didn't try smoothing the top too carefully

Ta da! The whole thing held together well, even though I had reduced the gelatin from 9g to 7g (still seemed like a lot)

If you don't see any raspberries in the decor, it's because someone hadn't read the memo about not eating the lovely berries I had reserved just for this purpose...


Elra said...

Welcome back, I am sorry about your Charlotte mold and the broken car.
Charlotte looks very nice and I wish I have the lady finger mold, so I can make this faster. Imagine piping the batter one by one for the lady finger. This is why I haven't tried to make Charlotte. Cheers!

Aran said...

it looks delightful... charlottes are always so pretty and delicate and girly... love it!

Zoe Francois said...

How absolutely divine this is. Charlottes always remind me of things regal and opulent. Yet, you make it look so easy!

Kai Carver said...

Beautiful. I like that the ladyfingers are all different, giving the pastry a bit of a rustic, wild look.

Also I would like to know who ate the raspberries.

redmenace said...

This is just gorgeous! Lovely presentation!

Madam Chow said...

Just lovely, and I love the little comment about someone not reading the memo!

Leonor de Sousa Bastos said...

I love charlottes and they remind me my childhood when I always asked charlotte for dessert...

Yours look precious!

Claudia said...

That is so beautiful, the berries are such a lovely mix on top of the Charlotte. If I can find a lady finger mold ....I'll do it.

Snooky doodle said...

wow what a nice charlotte. Wish i could do perfect lady fingers like yours :-)

Mandy said...

Your charlotte looks so pretty. I especially like the pink hue of the mousse! I made a charlotte for my birthday, but yours look so much nicer!

Jude said...

That is amazing. The construction posts will be really helpful if I ever try this.
Not anytime soon, I think.

Astrid said...

Hello all and thank you for your friendly comments!

Elra and Claudia: what is this lady finger mold of which you speak? I piped the batter into finger shapes, or into a spiral for the bottom of the cake. The lady fingers were really not difficult to make, only caution is to treat the batter gently so it doesn't deflate. My fingers were not very homogenous, but I trimmed the edges and cut off one end to have the same length for all.

Kai - The thief's name starts with J, as you may have guessed. Just because they're his favorite fruit, he considers all raspberries by right his... (-;

Anonymous said...

The first picture is amazing! JED

Elra said...

Oh dear Astrid, my apology...
at glance, your photograph (the 4th from top) looks like you're making the lady finger using a mold. I am so sorry to not carefully inspect the photo before I leave you a comment. Cheers!

Jaime said...

Beautiful. Pink things taste like a party. I like how you showed how much you fit on one cookie sheet. Well done!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Making a Charlotte and homemade ladyfingers is on my list of things to try. Now I know where to turn when I do. Looks lovely! Hope you can replace that charlotte mold you had to abandon!

Tamami said...

Hi Astrid! Really cute cake! Yummmmmmm.... i'm looking at your photos at midnight, just when my stomach is on the empty. So tempted to go to my food cupboard to find something to nibble now. Your fault!! xx

eleonora said...

Une belle charlotte aux fruits comme on les aime.

Claudia said...

Your Charlotte looks so beautiful! Perfect lady fingers. Have to try this recipe. Hermés recipes are always a big hit in my kitchen.

proofofthepudding said...

This looks gorgeous!

linda said...

A car breaking down while driving back from vacation is no fun, especially not when you have three little girls with you...
I've never attempted making a charlotte before and have always wondered how the ladyfingers stay up, your step by step photo's have shown the secret: a bottom layer of ladyfingers :)
Your charlotte looks wonderful and delicious even without the raspberries ;)

Cakelaw said...

This is exquisite!

ღ♥ღ alyaman ღ♥ღ said...

ooh it's sooo delicious

Rachel said...

Hi Astrid,

This is really an amazing recipe - my mum did this cace for my birthday and everyone was impressed!
I even mentioned you on my blog!