Hot apple and vanilla charlottes with custard
- October 2006
- 2kg Bramley apples
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
- About 175g unsalted butter
- 225g caster sugar, to taste, plus extra for decorating
- About 500g loaf unsliced fresh white bread
- Good-quality custard, to serve
- This step can be done in advance. Quarter, core and peel the apples and slice them into a saucepan. Add the vanilla pod and seeds along with 6-8 tablespoons water and 50g of the butter. Cover and cook over a low heat until the juices start to flow. Uncover, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the apples have completely broken down. Return the heat to low and continue to cook for 15 minutes, stirring, until the purée has cooked down and is stiff. (It shouldn’t be juicy as this will make the bread soggy.) Remove the vanilla pod, stir in the sugar to taste and set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Cut off and discard the crusts from the bread loaf and cut into 3mm-thick slices. You will need approximately 21 slices – 3½ slices per charlotte.
- Melt the remaining butter in a small pan over a low heat – do not stir. Set aside for a few minutes, then skim any scum from the surface. Pour off the clear clarified butter into a bowl and discard the milky-white solids at the bottom of the pan.
- Brush 1 side of each slice of bread with the clarified butter. Cut 12 of the bread slices into discs (7-8cm in diameter) so that they fit snugly into the bottom of 6 x 200-250ml ramekins. Quarter the remaining slices. (Make them the same depth as the dishes.) Push 1 disc of bread, butter-side down, into the base of each dish and line the sides with the bread squares, butter-side outwards, overlapping them slightly.
- Fill the ramekins with the apple purée to within 3-4mm of the top of the bread. Fit the remaining discs, butter-side outwards, inside the edge of the upright bread slices to completely encase the purée. Transfer the dishes to a baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the bread is crisp and golden.
- Carefully turn the apple charlottes out onto warmed plates and sprinkle generously with caster sugar. Serve warm with a good-quality custard.
As bread loaves vary in size, and the yield from apples is never exactly the same, this recipe errs slightly on the generous side.
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