Saturday, June 20, 2015

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge: #4 "Foreign" Foods, part 4- A French Charlotte

The Challenge:
Make a dish that reflects the historical idea of "foreign"- either foods with a loose connection to foreign lands, named after faraway places, or attributed to foreigners.

A French Charlotte
Of the two principle kinds of charlotte, the unbaked charlottes are purported to have begun by Chef Marie-Antoin Careme of France. Chef Careme worked for the Prince Regent of England in the early 19th century and likely encountered a baked charlotte popular in the 18th century. He introduced the charlotte a la parisienne by 1802. While he was working for Tsar Alexander, the name changed to charlotte russe.
American bakers in New York City would put their own spin on the confection by the 1880s.

I first began researching charlottes for portraying a confectioner and exploring all the elegant made confections on a 19th century dessert table. For Americans looking to impress, the association with the classically fashionable French makes the French Charlotte a welcome finish to the dinner party or theatre supper.

The Recipe:
From: The Lady's Receipt Book; A Useful companion for large and small families by Eliza Leslie, 1847
A French Charlotte.
--Lay in a deep dish or pan half a pound of bitter almond maccaroons (chocolate maccaroons will be still better) and pour on sufficient white wine to cover them well, and let them stand till entirely dissolved. Whip to a stiff froth a pint of rich cream, sweetened with sugar and flavoured with rose or lemon. Have ready a large circular almond sponge cake with the inside cut out, so as to leave the sides and bottom standing in the form of a mould, not quite an inch thick. Ornament the edge with a handsome border of icing. In the bottom of this mould put the dissolved maccaroons; over them a layer of thick jelly, made of some very nice fruit; and fill up with the whipped cream, heaping it high in the centre.

This is a very fine Charlotte, and is easily made, no cooking being required, after the materials are collected.

The Date/Year and Region: 
Mid Atlantic United States, 1840-1870

How Did You Make It:
The first step was to collect the ingredients. I will confess here I bought the jelly, as mine is a disaster every time.
Assemble the ingredients.
Set the macaroons to dissolve in white wine.

Prepare the whipped cream.
Add cream, sugar, and dash of lemon juice to a mixing bowl.
Blend with a spoon until sugar is moist.
Continue with an electric beater until the cream is stiff.

Cut the cake to form sides and bottom. I cut a ring at about 1.5 inches, removed the center circle and sliced it at about 0.75 inches, and returned it to the cake.

Now build the charlotte.
Add a layer of dissolved macaroons.

Add a layer of cherry jelly.

Ice the cake. (if one iced the cake before the center was filled, the icing would come off on the hands.)

Add a layer of whipped cream to cover.

Add a garnish of cherries.

Time to Complete:
Monday: Macaroons, 40 minutes
Tuesday: Sponge Cake 50 minutes
              Cooling the cake and dissolving the macaroons, 60 minutes
              Whipped Cream, 10 minutes
              Assembly, 15 minutes
Almost 3 hours total

Total Cost: 
This is definitely not something for the every-day table.

How Successful Was It: 
Day 1: You ARE gonna share that bite of gluten free heaven, right?
Day 2: Is there more? I could definitely have seconds... maybe thirds. Would you mind if we finish this off tonight?

How Accurate Was It: 
I would say fairly close, with exception of the store bought jelly.

Bonus Recipes:
Also from "The Lady's Receipt Book..." by Eliza Leslie.
Chocolate Maccaroons.
--Blanch half a pound of shelled sweet almonds, by scalding them with boiling water, till the skin peels off easily. Then throw them into a bowl of cold water, and let them stand awhile. Take them out and wipe them, separately. Afterwards set them in a warm place, to dry thoroughly. Put them, one at a time, into a marble mortar, and pound them to a smooth paste; moistening them, as you proceed, with a few drops of rose-water, to prevent their oiling. When you have pounded one or two, take them out of the mortar, with a tea-spoon, and put them into a deep plate, beside you, and continue removing the almonds to the plate, till they are all done. Scrape down, as fine as possible, half a pound of the best chocolate, or of Baker's prepared cocoa, and mix it, thoroughly, with the pounded almonds. Then set the plate in a cool place. Put the whites of eight eggs into a shallow pan, and beat them to a stiff froth, that will stand alone. Have ready a pound and a half of finely-powdered loaf-sugar. Stir it, hard, into the beaten white-of-egg, a spoonful at a time. Then stir in, gradually, the mixture of almond and chocolate; and beat the whole very hard. Drop the mixture, in equal portions, upon thin white paper, laid on square tin pans, smoothing them, with a spoon, into round cakes, about the size of a half-dollar. Dredge the top of each, lightly, with powdered sugar. Set them into a quick oven, and bake them a light brown. When done, take them off the paper.

For the first experiment, in making these maccaroons, it may be well to try a smaller quantity. For instance, a quarter of a pound of shelled almonds; a quarter of a pound of chocolate; four eggs; and three-quarters of a pound of sugar.

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