This simple, yet stunning dessert is the perfect pick for a spring celebration. It incorporates two of the season’s finest fruits into a heavenly mousse surrounded by ladyfingers. What’s not to love?!
You may have never eaten a charlotte before (we hadn’t), but you may have seen pictures of this fantastical dessert. The original, charlotte russe, was said to have been created and named by French chef, Marie-Antoine Carême, for Princess Charlotte, the daughter of his former employer, King George IV, and his employer at the time, Czar Alexander I.
A charlotte is a molded dessert. A pan is lined with ladyfingers, bread, or spongecake, then filled with fruit, mousse, Bavarian cream, custard, or any combination of them. Though this dessert looks complicated, as if it could only be created by a pastry chef, it’s deceptively simple, and we all know looks can be deceiving.
This charlotte consists of three main, but simple, parts: Lining a springform pan with crisp ladyfingers that have been dipped in an orange-flavored syrup. Cooking strawberries and rhubarb with sugar until tender, stabilizing with gelatin, and folding in whipped cream to create the mousse. Then, topping off the charlotte with a glaze made of fruit juices for a beautiful, jewel-like finish.
FOR THE SYRUP, HEAT:
FOR THE MOUSSE AND GLAZE, COOK:
For the syrup, heat water, Grand Marnier, and sugar in a saucepan over medium just until sugar dissolves; stir in lemon juice, then cool syrup.
Line the inside of an 8×3¾-inch springform pan with plastic wrap.
Dip ladyfingers into syrup, then set upright, lining the perimeter of pan, placing fingers sugared side out. Repeat dipping and placing fingers to cover bottom of pan completely. (You will have to break up the fingers to fill in all the gaps.)
For the mousse and glaze, cook frozen strawberries and rhubarb with 2 cups sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 30 minutes. Ladle and reserve 1 cup liquid for the glaze, then purée remaining liquid and solids for the mousse; keep warm.
Combine 3 Tbsp. water, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice; sprinkle 3 packets gelatin over top until completely absorbed, stirring if necessary. Stir hydrated gelatin into puréed fruit until completely incorporated; cool.
Beat cream and ¼ cup sugar with a mixer to stiff peaks; fold into puréed fruit, then pour into ladyfinger-lined pan. Spread mousse up sides of fingers just around the perimeter (so glaze doesn’t leak out the edges), then smooth the top. Cover and chill charlotte until set, at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Sprinkle 1 tsp. gelatin over 1 Tbsp. water until gelatin is completely absorbed.
Heat reserved 1 cup fruit liquid in a saucepan with hydrated gelatin for the glaze, just until gelatin dissolves; cool.
Pour glaze over top of mousse and chill charlotte until completely set, at least 1 hour. Unmold charlotte and top with fresh strawberries before serving.
Wrap the bottom round of the springform pan with plastic wrap; set aside. To create a sling, lay two long strips of plastic wrap perpendicular to one another, place the bottom round in the center, then fold strips in towards center. Lock the pan ring to the bottom, then unfold the strips to drape over sides of pan.
Quickly dip the fingers in the syrup and arrange, sugared side out, around perimeter of pan, then on the bottom of the pan. You’ll need to break some of the fingers to fill any holes for a solid base.
Ladle 1 cup of juice only (no chunks) from the cooked fruit and reserve. This will become the glaze.
Purée the remaining juices and cooked fruit; keep warm. This will become the mousse.
Fold cream thoroughly into the puréed fruit to avoid any pockets of whipped cream.
Use a spoon to gently push the mousse up the sides of the fingers to fill any cracks and create a barrier. This prevents the glaze from leaking down the sides.
Be sure the charlotte is chilled, and the glaze is cooled before pouring it over the top; this prevents the glaze from mixing with the mousse.
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 21%
Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Cholesterol 79mg 26%
Sodium 45mg 1%
Carbs 59g 19%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.