Warm Pear Charlotte is a simply stunning dessert suitable for any occasion and perfect for entertaining or family celebrations. Rich, sweet yet subtle flavor is enhanced by a hint of nutmeg. Ideal with a dollop of whipped cream.
- 1 lemon
- 7 medium firm-ripe pears such as: Bartlett or Anjou (about 3 pounds); peeled, cored, and cut in coarse chunks
- 3/4 Cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks); melted
- 1/4 Cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 12 slices whole-wheat or white bread (to 16); crusts removed
- 1 jar good-quality apricot preserves (about 1 1/2 Cups), divided
- 6 Tablespoons Brandy; divided
- lightly whipped cream
- Choose a 1 1/2-quart charlotte mold, souffle dish or other round, deep baking dish.
- Grate zest (colored portion of peel) from lemon; set aside. Juice lemon. Place pears in bowl; toss with lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Set aside.
- Heat 2 Tablespoons melted butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pears, working in batches, if necessary; toss. Cover; cook until pears soften, about 6 minutes. Add sugar, nutmeg and lemon zest. Cook, tossing, until pears are soft, dry and chunky, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
- Cut 6 slices bread into long, thin triangles; cut the remaining slices into long, thin rectangles. Dip one side of a bread triangle in remaining melted butter; place on bottom of mold, buttered-side down. Repeat until the bottom is covered with bread triangles, side by side, the points to the center. Reserve remaining triangles to top the charlotte.
- Dip one side of each rectangle in the butter and arrange them upright, buttered-sides against the sides of the mold, overlapping slightly.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center. Place half of the pear mixture in the mold, pressing the bread against the sides of the mold as you do so. Spread with about 1/2 Cup apricot preserves; sprinkle on 1 Tablespoon brandy. Repeat with remaining pears, another 1/2 Cup preserves and another 1 Tablespoon brandy. Dip one side of the remaining bread triangles in the remaining butter; arrange on top of the mold, buttered-sides up, points in. Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon brandy.
- Set mold on a baking sheet; put in preheated oven and immediately lower the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 35 minutes. If after 15 or 20 minutes, the pieces of bread on the top are browning too quickly, cover the mold loosely with foil. When the top of the charlotte is golden brown, remove to a wire rack. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small nonreactive saucepan, melt the remaining 1/2 cup preserves over low heat. Strain; stir in remaining 3 Tablespoons brandy.
- Strain into a small bowl.
- Gently invert the charlotte onto a serving platter; let cool for about 10 minutes longer. Carefully remove the mold. Brush the charlotte with the warm strained preserves. Serve lukewarm, cut into wedges; pass the whipped cream separately.
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