Like “cake”, the term “charlotte” can be a bit hard to define, as there are so many different types and styles. They aren’t really pastries as such. Rather, they bear a much closer resemblance to bread puddings and trifles. Like trifles, they’re usually prepared in deep molds. They can be either baked or unbaked.
The classic baked Charlotte hails from Britain. Said to be named for Queen Charlotte, the wife of the infamous (at least in America) King George the Third, it consists of a crust made of strips of buttered bread filled with cooked apples. Baked and sliced, it’s frequently garnished with a sauce of crème anglaise.
The unbaked style of charlotte goes by the name of charlotte russe, “Russian” charlotte. A Russian-style charlotte has a Bavarian cream filling, usually flavored with fruit, surrounded by ladyfingers and set in a mold.
Of the two, the charlotte russe-style is by far the more common, and is prepared in a wide variety of different shapes. I hope to get into some of those eventually, since the techniques they involve can be quite a lot of fun. This week, however, I’ll be dealing with the basics.