Apple Caramel Charlotte

Baking the Apple Caramel Charlotte was unlike anything I have ever baked before and will not likely do again soon.  I actually baked the Charlotte a week ago because I had made several baking commitments for this weekend and knew that something as involved as this Charlotte was just not going to work.  Even so, I really underestimated how much time this recipe would take and it was not what I needed to start off a very busy week.

The first step of this recipe was to make the biscuit or crust.  Mixing the batter was definitely the easiest part.  The eggs and sugar are mixed in the Kitchenaid.  Then you beat the egg whites into a meringue and fold it into the batter.

It is baked in a half-sheet pan until golden brown and then removed from the pan at once.  Then comes the more time consuming part: after the cake has cooled, you must cut the cake into an 8″ round circle and 4 strips that measure 8-1/4″x2-1/’.

The strips are stacked and layered with apricot preserves.  Then you wrap it and freeze it.

It was late so I decided to poach the apples the next day when I did the rest of the baking.  I couldn’t find any tart apples other than Granny Smith so that is what I used.  These were put into a pan just large enough to hold the apples in a single layer.  They are heated in sugar water with a little lemon juice, calvados and a vanilla bean.

After the apples were poached, I completed the crust.  I removed the strips from the freezer and cut them into 3/8″ slices.   Then I lined the mold with the crust slices.

Next came the Caramel Bavarian Cream Filling which has two main components: the apple caramel custard and meringue.  As I began to make the apple caramel custard, Hubby asked if he could use a burner on the stove.  I figured no big deal, all I need is a burner for the caramel.  Five minutes later, as I had pans heating on three burners, we decided that trying to share the stove may not be a good idea.   You must heat some poaching liquid along with gelatin in one pan.  Another pan has egg yolks in it and the third pan is needed to make caramel.  After the caramel is ready, you add the poaching liquid/gelatin to it, and then you combine the yolks.  This whole mixture must then be brought to the boiling point and put through a strainer to chill.  As I went to make the caramel I made a very careless mistake by confusing the amounts for the water and the sugar which meant I had far too much water added with the sugar and after heating and heating, it was just never going to turn into caramel.  All the while, the poaching liquid was boiling on the back burner.  So I had to redo the caramel and I was back on track.

Component two for the filling is an Italian Meringue made by making a simple syrup of sugar and water and then combining it with egg whites that have been beaten to stiff peaks.

Finally, after you have the custard and the meringue made, you must combine them both with some cream and Calvados. This would seem pretty straightforward but this part really gave me grief.  This was because Rose has you cool the apple caramel custard in an ice water bath and you are to get it to a point you can drop it off a spoon and it will lightly mound.  Well, my custard was already almost to a gelatinous consistency before trying to cool it down and I could see that there was no way it was going to drop off a spoon and mound.  (You can see the horrible consistency in the picture.)  I proceeded to have a small meltdown because I had already spent so much time on this dessert and now it appeared I wasn’t going to be able to complete the next step. I was ready to quit and be done with this whole recipe but Hubby stepped in with his cool analytical mind and figured out how to salvage things.  We decided that I must have lost some of the liquid when I was having trouble with the caramel and had the poaching liquid boiling for an extended period of time on the back burner.  So Hubby reheated the custard mixture and added some liquid.  It seemed to be working so I continued on.  Cooling this mixture down just doesn’t seem to make sense to me and and as we cooled it down it again started turning gelatinous so I am still questioning what this step is all about but whatever. We did manage to get everything combined and the completed Bavarian Cream Filling promptly went into the crust.  

Next came the slicing of the apples and then arranging them into a rose.  Normally this would be my favorite part but by this point I just wanted the thing done.

The final step is to make a glaze that is brushed over the top of the apples.  The Charlotte then goes into the refrigerator overnight.  Once its in the fridge, you can begin the major cleanup involved after dirtying so many dishes and pans.

The next night we had a friend over for dinner.  It was nice that the dessert could just be pulled from the fridge and be ready to go at that point.  The appearance of the dessert is really quite spectacular.  The taste was good but not the wow that I anticipated.  I admit that some of this may be because I was still holding a small grudge over how long this took to make.  Hubby liked it a lot but agreed it was a lot of work to make.  My friend enjoyed it also but she observed that while the crust of this dessert is very beautiful, flavor wise it doesn’t really seem to complement the apples and custard.  She said it was like it should go with some other dessert, and I agree.

So, there you have it.  I would not totally rule out ever making it again and perhaps it would go a little smoother the second time around. But at the same time, it was not so amazing of a dessert that I felt like it warranted the work involved.

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Gold Ingots — Plain and Fancy

I am so honored to have been chosen as featured baker last week.  I didn’t even think to explain how I decorated the cake when I posted so since there was quite a bit of interest I thought I would share what I did.  I love seeing how everyone adds their unique touches to their cakes and it gives me such inspiration.  So last week after I saw so many beautiful renditions of the cake I decided that I could not just have some plain old cake and decided to come up with something.  Of course the cake had caramel ganache so I tried to think of something that would complement the caramel.  Then I remembered that I had a can of Dulce de Leche left over from some flan I made a while back.  I put the caramel in a pastry bag and microwaved it just a touch to soften it up (make sure you take the decorating tip off) and that is what I used to pipe the design on my cake.  It really is a great little item that can be used to dress up a dessert by pooling some on a plate or drizzling it over the top.

Well, today’s baking assignment turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  I’ve secretly been dreading these little cakes for a while because I was afraid they would be just too plain for my liking (no chocolate AND no icing).  But I found this nifty little pan at Hobby Lobby and I started feeling a bit more positive about the whole thing.  This actually turned out to be the PERFECT pan for making the financiers.  Not only is it a really nice size for the cakes, but while most silicone pans are a real pain to work with because they flop around, this pan actually has a steel reinforced rim which keeps it rigid when you are putting it in and out of the oven or removing the cakes.  It is made by Davison ( and is called a Dessert Bar Pan in case anyone is interested in it.

I usually start checking the blogs on Sunday afternoon to see if I can get a little preview of what is to come and see if there is any advice that I can use in my own baking experience.  The couple of entries that I happened to see were not very complimentary of the ingots and I started to worry.  It sounded like they  really were going to be as unexciting as I had figured (or worse) and I considered not even making them.  Instead, I started hatching a plan of how to salvage the recipe (more on that later).

The recipe is pretty easy.  It requires toasting slivered almonds (I used sliced) which are then ground with sugar in the food processor.  The other ingredient that gives these cakes flavor is the beurre noisette.  I’m actually getting pretty good at making the beurre noisetts  since it’s about the third time we’ve had to make it in the last several months. Once the almonds and butter are ready, they are mixed with egg whites and Wondra flour and it mixes up in about five minutes.

Rose instructs you to put it in the fridge for about an hour and then pipe it into the pan using a pastry bag.  Since I really didn’t want to wait around an hour, I decided to just put it directly into the baking pan.  I put the batter in a measuring cup and then poured it into each cavity.  I didn’t have any problem with this and would highly recommend others to do it this way.  I was also very happy when my batter came out perfectly for my pan and I had 12 little financiers.

I popped the cake in the oven and they baked up very nicely.  I let them cool a bit and then took them out of the pans.  As I said earlier, I had worries over these little cakes, so in the meantime I had whipped together a few items to dress them up — some chocolate ganache (can never go wrong with that) and custard.  These two items came to mind because I figured the ingots were going to taste a lot like yellow cake and I decided to make some mini boston creams out of them.

So this was the point where I was very pleasantly surprised!  The ingots didn’t taste like yellow cake at all and they weren’t at all lacking in flavor.   The almond and browned butter flavors came through very nicely and made for a very tasty little cake, with a nice texture,  that I think would go well with a little fruit compote or a few berries.  I would like to try making these in my little teacake pan  as I can picture them on a dessert plate drizzled with berry coulis.

Now since I already had my custard and ganache ready, I went ahead and tried the cakes that way too.  The custard was actually a bit sweet (not from scratch) which I felt detracted from the almond flavor of the cakes.  But I really liked the chocolate paired with the almond and it added just a touch of moistness and elegance to it.

This was a great little recipe and one that I am very glad that I tried.  I am sure that I will be making these again and again.

Next week is free choice and I really can’t decide what I want to make.  There are so many recipes I am interested in that I am having a hard time narrowing it down.  So I guess you will be surprised next week.




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Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

Seems so many of the other Heavenly Cake Bakers are disappointed when we bake something chocolatey.  This is something I really cannot comprehend.  I LOVE chocolate!  In fact, one of the reasons I decided to join the Heavenly Cake Bakers was to widen my horizons and force myself to bake more things that aren’t chocolate.  But I am always very happy when the assignment involves chocolate.

This week’s assignment was the Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache.  I made sure to read through the instructions a few times before starting so I wouldn’t have any surprises.  Since the ganache needed to sit for several hours I decided to start with that.

The first step to the ganache is making the caramel.   I have three little words that I suggest everyone write in the margin of their book:  Mis en place!  I started heating the water and sugar and thought I would get everything else together while it came up to temp.  Only problem was that there wasn’t a whole lot of time and the caramel was starting to darken by the time I finished getting the food processor out, chopping the chocolate and measuring the cream.  Next time I will have everything ready before I start the caramel.

Rose instructs you to check the temperature of the caramel which turned into a bit of a challenge.  I considered skipping that step but was afraid there might be something magic about 370 degrees so I figured I had better do it to avoid any problems.   I had to tip the hot pan to get enough liquid for the thermometer and every time I checked it was only a little over 300 degrees.  As the caramel kept getting darker and darker I suddenly realized that maybe my thermometer didn’t go any higher and sure enough, that was the problem.  So I let the caramel get a bit darker and then pulled it off the heat and added the cream.  I ended up with some chunks of caramel but was able to melt them back down over the burner.  Then I added the caramel to the chocolate in the food processor.  The end result was a very lovely and tasty ganache.

The cake is baked in one 9″ cake pan and then the cake is sliced into two layers.  The ganache is used as a filling between the layers and as icing on top.

The cake was very good and the ganche, which thickened up into a fudge-like consistency, was fabulous.  I would have preferred a stronger caramel flavor as it seemed rather subtle to me, but perhaps the caramel needed to be darker.  I will make this cake again and I will probably use this ganache with some of my other recipes as well.

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Caramel Chaos

I have had my eye on a recipe in Martha Stewart’s Living magazine called Chocolate Dipped Caramallows.  Marshall saw the recipe and it reminded him of his favorite See’s chocolate which has caramel on the bottom with marshmallow on the top, then dipped in chocolate.

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