Are you watching Downton Abbey? Please tell me yes.
Don't worry, if you aren't we can still be friends. I realize that not everyone is excited by a PBS-broadcasted and British period piece that boasts a sassy storyline involving servants and the socialites they tend to, but if you think it might be your thing, I highly recommend checking it out. And if the clever writing and stellar acting don't draw you in, than I have a feeling the charming Matthew Crawley just might.
The premier episode of season 2 aired last night, but I still have yet to see it. I was all prepared to watch my recording on the PVR, but then Tim Tebow went and threw an 80-yard touchdown pass causing a commotion with the boys in my house. It seems as though Sunday sports reign supreme these days, and I'm patiently waiting to see how things pan out for Lady Mary and her man. Thanks to my new friend Tim, it looks like next week my TV time will likely turn into Tebow Time again, and now I've decided that I will watch my show in peace and quiet when I'm here alone during the day "working".
Besides, I think I could get away with considering my new program as part of my research for my job. Many of the servants’ scenes are filmed in the dark kitchen of the stately manor, and watching the poor sight-impaired Mrs. Patmore prepare succulent meals for the Earl of Grantham and his family surely qualifies. Especially when foods like roast chicken and apple charlotte are being served.
Apple Charlotte is a classic British dessert. Said to be named after Queen Charlotte because of her staunch support for apple farmers, but in reality the sweet dish was concocted as a way to use up stale and leftover bread. More modern versions of the dish now use ladyfingers as the bread-y base, but I opted to stick to the classic assembly, and used stale cinnamon-raisin bread. The ingredient list isn't too lengthy and the steps are rather easy; think of these as individual apple pies, only quicker.
So quick in fact, that I might even serve them to my family this weekend when they watch a little football.
Apple Charlotte (adapted from Tyler Florence)
Feel free to replace the raisin bread with regular brown bread, challah, pulla or brioche. It even works well with stale crusty bread.
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter
- 4 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter (for greasing ramekins)
- 1 tablespoons sugar (for the topping)
- 10 slices raisin bread, crusts removed
1. Begin by making the filling. Set a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once butter has melted and starts to foam, add the apples, scraped vanilla bean, lemon juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Toss to coat well and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until apples are just tender and liquid has evaporated. The sauce should turn a nice caramel colour.
2. While the apples are cooking, combine the eggs, milk and sugar in a shallow dish. Stir with a fork until fully combined. Set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and generously butter 4 small ramekins.
4. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out four circles from the bread. These will be the bases of the charlottes. Cut the other slices of bread into rectangles about 1" in width.
5. Working with the circles, lightly coat each piece in the egg mixture and place it in the bottom of each ramekin. Lightly dip the other rectangles of bread in batter as well, then use them to line the walls of each ramekin - standing them upright around the perimeter leaving an overhang that you will later use to fold over and seal the charlotte. It should take about 6-8 strips per ramekin.
6. Fill each bread mold with apples and some of the caramel from the pan. Add a piece or two of bread to the top and fold over the edges to seal it up completely. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar.
7. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed up. Allow to cool slightly, then run a knife around the edges and invert onto individual plates.
8.Serve with powdered sugar or vanilla ice cream.