Oh my LORD, has this blog post taken me ages to write. I will be completely honest here – a big part of my dragged heels is related to the fact that I completely, 100% failed at this recipe.
The fact that I managed to ruin this recipe more than once is a little mind-boggling, because it is BREAD, APPLES, AND BUTTER.
Initially, I used the recipe in this book, which darling Nora got me for my birthday. The first two times I made this Charlotte, it completely fell apart. It tasted fine, but part of the fun of apple charlotte is how beautiful it should be! The bread was too soggy with butter, I think, and I don’t own a charlotte pan, so I was using my beloved but elaborate bundt pan. This was, ultimately, a dooming combination, I think.
I worked up my courage to try a third time, because my pride couldn’t take another King Cake fiasco. (Oof, it actually causes me physical pain to look at.) This time, I decided to use a Jaques Pepin recipe from this book. Jaques’ recipe was subtly different from Julia’s- it didn’t use melted butter for the bread, and it cooked the apples much more thoroughly on the stovetop than Julia’s did (like a tarte tatin). I don’t know if those differences are what made this work the third time, or if it was just that I abandoned the bundt pan for just a simple baking dish. Either way, I had some success!
Both recipes involved the slicing of apples –
and the cutting of bread crusts –
(I told Boris that I felt like all the bread-crust-cutting must be what it’s like to be a parent.)
The baking dish got really, really buttered up, and then bread strips lined it. I toasted the bread pieces on the bottom, so they wouldn’t get too soggy.
The apples got sauteed for quite a while (close to 15 minutes) on the stove with sugar, ground cinnamon and cloves, and a dash of light corn syrup (Jaques recommended honey, but I had corn syrup on hand and I was hoping it would cook down enough to help the filling be more cohesive):
Finally, apples went in the dish, got covered by another layer of bread, and into the oven it went!
Once it was done, it cooled for most of the day. I was so pleased when I unmolded it and it held its shape! The first two crumbled and toppled right out of the pan.
I had planned to take this to a potluck at a friend’s, so I waited until right before I left to glaze with apricot preserves:
It turned out beautifully! It was pretty good, too. I did find it to be a little dry – it might have been better served with ice cream or whipped cream. Like Nora concluded, I think I’d prefer to have an apple pie (about the same amount of work but I prefer the pastry to the bread), but the apple charlotte wasn’t a total wash. Turns out, third time’s the charm!