Charlotte russe is said to have been developed in the early 19th century by Marie Antonin Carême, often considered the godfather of haute cuisine. In our version, ladyfingers soaked in Grand Marnier are used to line a springform pan, then airy strawberry Bavarian cream is poured inside. A tangy cranberry glaze gives the top a bright red finish, for an impressive and festive dessert for the holidays.
What to buy: Crispy packaged ladyfingers are a must for this recipe. Do not use the soft, freshly baked variety or you will end up with a soggy mess.
This dish was featured as part of our Epic Christmas Feast: Lost Recipes from the Grand Hotels.
- 1Combine the Grand Marnier and simple syrup in a wide shallow bowl; set aside.
- 2Make a collar out of parchment paper: Cut a 13-by-30-inch-long piece of parchment and fold it in half lengthwise. Line the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with the paper collar, placing the folded end down. Secure the ends with a paper clip.
- 3Line the pan with the ladyfingers starting along the bottom: Dip both sides of the ladyfingers in the syrup mixture, letting them soak about 2 seconds per side. Let the excess syrup drip off, then place the ladyfingers sugar-side up on the bottom of the pan, breaking them as needed to form a single, tightly packed layer and leaving 1/4 inch of space along the edge of the pan (the ladyfingers around the outer edge will need to fit snugly into this space).
- 4Continue dipping the ladyfingers and use them to line the inner ring of the pan, standing them upright with the sugar side facing out. Loosen the parchment collar as needed to keep the ladyfingers standing upright. Fill any gaps at the bottom of the pan with broken pieces of soaked ladyfingers so that the bottom is completely covered. (As the syrup mixture soaks in, the ladyfingers will expand. They need to fit snugly next to each other, leaving no crevices on the bottom or sides, or the Bavarian cream will leak out.) Set the pan aside and reserve the remaining syrup mixture.
For the strawberry Bavarian cream filling:
- 1Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and pods, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 7 to 8 minutes.
- 2Meanwhile, pour the Grand Marnier into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface; set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large heatproof bowl; set aside.
- 3Remove the milk mixture from the heat and slowly pour about 1 cup into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until smooth. Pour the milk-egg mixture back into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the spoon, about 3 to 5 minutes. (When you draw your finger across the spoon, it should make a mark through the custard, which should not run back in on itself.)
- 4Remove the custard from the heat and pour it through the strainer (don’t press on the solids); discard the contents of the strainer. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the custard until dissolved and the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes; set aside.
- 5Prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice and water. Place the custard over the ice water bath and stir often until it’s cooled to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
- 6When the custard is cooled, add the strawberry purée and whisk until combined. Pour the cream into a clean large bowl and whisk to medium peaks. (Alternatively, whisk in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.) Add all of the whipped cream to the bowl of strawberry custard. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream until evenly combined and no streaks of strawberry or whipped cream remain, scraping the bottom of the bowl as necessary to incorporate the custard.
- 7Lightly brush the tops of the exposed ladyfingers with the reserved syrup mixture (you may have some left over). Pour the strawberry Bavarian cream into the prepared pan. Refrigerate uncovered until set, at least 4 hours, then prepare the glaze. (Do not make the glaze ahead, or it will set up and be unpourable.)
For the cranberry glaze:
- 1Set a medium-mesh strainer over a small bowl and set aside.
- 2Combine the cranberries, sugar, and 3 tablespoons of the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are soft and starting to fall apart and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- 3Pour the remaining 2 teaspoons of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface; set aside.
- 4Pour the cranberry mixture into the strainer. Using a rubber spatula, push on the cranberry solids and scrape the underside of the strainer until all of the liquid is extracted; set the liquid aside and discard the contents of the strainer. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the cranberry mixture until dissolved and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
- 5Pour the cooled glaze over the surface of the charlotte russe, tilting the pan as needed so that the entire top surface is covered. Refrigerate uncovered overnight.
- 6To serve, unlock and remove the outer ring of the springform pan and discard the parchment collar. Cut the charlotte russe into slices and serve immediately. If displaying the dessert before serving, tie a decorative ribbon around the ladyfingers. The charlotte russe can sit at room temperature for about 30 to 40 minutes before it needs to be rechilled.