Charlotte Russe is a dessert invented by the French chef Marie-Antoine Carême, who named it in honor of his former employer George IV’s only child, Princess Charlotte, and his concurrent, Russian employer Czar Alexander I (“russe” being the French word for “Russian”).
- 16 ladyfinger cookies, halved lengthwise
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 1 Cup milk
- 1 2-inch piece vanilla bean
- 2 teaspoons gelatin, softened in
- 1/4 Cup cold water
- 1/2 Cup sour cream, chilled
- 1/2 Cup heavy cream, chilled
- raspberry puree
- Trim 12 of the ladyfinger halves, tapering them slightly at one end.
- Arrange these halves, side by side, curved sides down, on the bottom of a 1 quart charlotte mold with the tapered ends meeting in the center. Stand the remaining ladyfingers, curved side out, side by side around the inside of the mold; if possible, avoid leaving any open spaces between them.
- Beat the egg yolks briefly in a mixing bowl with a whisk or an electric or rotary mixer. Stir beating, gradually add the sugar, and continue to beat until the mixture is thick and pale yellow and runs sluggishly off the beater when lifted from the bowl.
- In a small saucepan, warm the milk and vanilla bean over moderate heat until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.. Remove the bean and slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs, beating constantly.
- Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens into a custard heavy enough to coat a spoon. Do not let it boil or it will curdle.
- Off the heat, stir in the softened gelatin. When it has completely dissolved, strain the custard through a fine sieve set over a large bowl. With a whisk or rotary or electric beater, whip together the sour cream and heavy cream until the mixture forms stiff peaks on the beater when it is lifted out of the bowl.
- Fill half a large pot with ice cubes and cover them with 2 inches of water, set the bowl of custard into the pot and stir the custard with a metal spoon for at least 5 minutes, or until it is quite cold and just beginning to thicken to a syrupy consistency. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the custard.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared mold, smooth the top with a spatula, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 or 5 hours.
- To unmold the charlotte russe, invert a flat serving plate on top of the mold and serve the dessert with a bowl of the raspberry puree.
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