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...