Thursday, January 10, 2013

Charlotte Russe

By the 1890's Charlotte Russe used ladyfingers to surround the Bavarian cream.
There is yet another chilly Charlotte associated with the ballroom. One of the most popular party dishes of the mid-nineteenth century was the Charlotte Russe. If you look at the recipe below, you will see two things. First, it sounds delicious. It consists of vanilla Bavarian cream (custard and whipped cream stabilized with gelatine) inside a case of sponge cake. Second, it is served at large parties (like balls) and in multiples.

This recipe is from an American cookbook aimed at regular homemakers. Charlotte Russe could be made at home, but it could also be ordered from a confectioner, rather like buying an ice cream cake today.

A Charlotte Russe.—Boil in half a pint of milk a split vanilla bean till the flavour is extracted. Then strain the milk, and when it is cold stir into it the yolks of four beaten eggs, and a quarter of a pound of powdered loaf-sugar. Simmer this custard five minutes over hot coals, but do not let it come to a boil. Then set it away to cool. Having boiled an ounce of the best Russian isinglass in a pint of water till it is entirely dissolved and the water reduced to one-half, strain it into the custard, stir it hard, and set it aside to get quite cold.

Whip to a stiff froth a quart of rich cream, taking it off in spoonfuls as you do it, and putting it to drain on an inverted sieve. When the custard is quite cold (but not yet set or congealing,) stir the whipped cream gradually into it.

Take a circular mould of the shape of a drum, the sides being straight. Cut it to fit two round slices from the top and bottom of an almond sponge-cake; glaze them with white of egg, and lay one on at the bottom of the mould, reserving the other for the top.

Having thus covered the bottom, line the sides of the mould with more of the sponge-cake, cut into long squares and glazed all over with white of egg. They must be placed so as to stand up all round—each wrapping a little over the other so as to leave not the smallest vacancy between; and they must be at exactly the height of the mould, and trimmed evenly. Then fill up with the custard and cream when it is just beginning to congeal; and cover the top with the other round slice of cake.

Set the mould in a tub of pounded ice mixed with coarse salt; and let it remain forty minutes, or near an hour. Then turn out the Charlotte on a china dish. Have ready an icing, made in the usual manner of beaten white of egg and powdered sugar, flavoured with essence of lemon. Spread it smoothly over the top of the Charlotte, which when the icing is dry will be ready to serve. They are introduced at large parties, and it is usual to have two or four of them. (An American Lady. Mrs. Ellis's Housekeeping Made Easy, or Complete Instructor in all Branches of Cookery and Domestic Economy. New York:Burgess and Stringer, 1843. p. 63.)

An earlier Charlotte Russe covered with sponge cake.

Superior Sponge Cake.—Take the weight of ten "eggs in powdered loaf sugar, beat it to a froth with the yolks of twelve eggs, put in the grated rind of a fresh lemon, leaving out the white part—add half the juice. Beat the whites of twelve eggs to a stiff froth, and mix them with the sugar and butter. Stir the whole without any cessation for fifteen minutes, then stir in gradually the weight of six eggs in sifted flour. 

As soon as the flour is well mixed in, turn the cake into pans lined with buttered paper—bake it immediately in a quick, but not a furiously hot oven. It will bake in the course of twenty minutes. If it bakes too fast, cover it with thick paper. (An American Lady. Mrs. Ellis's Housekeeping Made Easy, or Complete Instructor in all Branches of Cookery and Domestic Economy. New York:Burgess and Stringer, 1843. p. 62.)

An impressively tall Charlotte Russe from 1886.


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