This was really a labor of love but sooooo worth the effort!! Between my two year old daughter and nursing school, I don't have nearly enough time to make things like this on a regular basis, although I wish I did! Maybe now that this semster (phew!) is over in a couple weeks, I will have more time to focus on baking. It seems like there's always a never-ending list of things to do, and I never get a moment to truly relax. Last night was the first time in a long time that I was able to focus on NOTHING. It was great.
Easter was a huge fiasco. Dinner was planned, but at the last minute canceled due to a bad stomach virus that's been going around. I began to feel nauseated as well and so I spent the night at my parent's house without my daughter. It was wonderful to relax all night on the couch without having to think about ANYTHING except resting.
So...the charlotte. It is just so spectacular looking. I love it!! It's one of those desserts that just looks so much like spring and very elegant. It looks like someone should be pouring tea in the background. I just think it is so pretty. And it is a very light kind of dessert as well. Whipped mousse filling and light ladyfingers. It's definitly not an everyday dessert. It would have been just perfect for Easter dinner. But I think any springtime occassion would be just as fitting.
These are very finicky. If you are not prepared for a little trial and error, a failed attempt or two, and a lot of labor than do not attempt to make these, go out and buy a package of lady fingers, no one will blame you. They are frustrating. Hopefully my explanations will save you from a lot of the mistakes that I made on the first go-round. Also, if you do not own a stand mixer or hand mixer then definitly do not attempt this unless you are planning on body building. Seriously. If you are going to make these yourself, they are best done in advance (day or two) before you plan on serving the charlotte. As I said, they take a while to make and assemble.
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs, seperated
1/2 cup superfine sugar seperated
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Before starting it is important to get allof your supplies ready since the airy batter will quickly become deflated. I learned this the hard way. You will need:
-2 baking sheets fitted with parchment paper or nonstick mats, the parchment paper will brown the cookies more
-pastry bag fitted with a large circular tip, the easiest way to prepare this is to place it inside a large glass with the sides folded over the top of the glass
-measure the height of your springform pan and form the ladyfingers to this height
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Sift together the flour and salt twice. If the flour is not sifted enough it will be too heavy when added to the eggs and will deflate the mixture.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a handheld mixer beat the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar together on medium-high speed until thick enough that the mixture forms ribbons. In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the rest of the sugar and beat until glossy and stiff, being careful not to overbeat.
Sift the flour and salt mixture on top of the egg yolks. Do not skip the sifting! Add 1/4 of the egg whites on top of this and gently fold everything together until combined. Add the vanilla extract and the rest of the egg whites and fold in until combined. Be careful not to overmix or the mixture will become deflated and runny.
Spoon the mixture into the pastry bag and pipe out ladyfingers onto prepared baking sheets. My springform pan ended up being 2 1/2" high so this was the length I piped the cookies. Save enough batter to pipe out a base for the charlotte. To make this, trace your springform pan onto the parchment paper and, beginning in the middle, pipe the base in a spiral pattern until about 1/2" from the edge of the circle. Remember, you can always cut the base to size but cannot add more!
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm to the touch.
*Note: this recipe made just about the exact amount I needed. I got over 24 2 1/2" ladyfingers and one 8" base.
Assembling the Ladyfingers
What a fiasco this was for me. Albeit a fun fiasco since kitchen fiascos are some of my favorite sort. I think I have come up with a pretty fool-proof method for assembling these tricky cookies. If anyone has some more tips or knows of an easier (or just different) way please comment and share :)
Hopefully, you did not make the same mistake that I made by piping my ladyfinger base too small. If you have, there is an easy solution for this. Line the sides of the springform pan with a double layer of aluminum foil until the pan is fitted to your needs. (It took me a lot of trial and error to come up with this solution!)
Place the base down and arrange the ladyfngers, bottom side facing in, along the inside of the pan. This can be very tricky to do since the ladyfingers are not flat on the bottom. They want to slip and slide and fall all over the place. If you run into this problem, use some royal icing to "glue" the ladyfingers to the base. This worked miracles for me!
Allow to set if using royal icing. Save any leftover ladyfingers incase you need a replacement for a broken one.
1 cup mixed berries (I used blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
1 tbl plain gelatin powder
1/4 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
6 tbl sugar
Puree the berries in a food processor until smooth. Strain through a mesh seive to remove all seeds. You should have a little less than a cup of puree.
In a seperate bowl, mix the water and gelatin together and mix with the berry puree.
In another bowl, beat the cream and sugar with a handheld mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold in the berry gelatin mixture gently until completely mixed.
Spoon into the charlotte mold and refrigerate for 4 hours. When set, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan (and aluminum foil, if using) and decorate with a ribbon, flowers, and fresh berries. Enjoy!
*Note: I have to add, that this is one of those desserts that is best the next day. After the mousse has had a chance to soften the cookies it is absolutely amazing!
Ladyfingers adapted from The Ultimate Cookie Book, Mousse adapted from The New York Dessert Scene