julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

A Tale of Three Recipes: Story 2


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“Tears mess up your makeup.” – Julia Child

Last time, on “Triple D: D is for Disaster“, our heroine had finally conquered her nemesis: lamb stew. Could she defend herself against her next challenger, Charlotte aux Pommes? Let’s see what happens in the latest installment…

Story 2: WWJD?
Now that the stew was out of the oven, I could move on to the Apple Charlotte. I had done the prep work while the stew was cooking – I peeled, cored and sliced a bunch of apples and tossed them into a pan on the stove, covered them and let them cook for about 20 minutes. When they were nice and tender, I added apricot preserves that had been run through a seive, sugar, vanilla, rum and butter. I boiled this mixture on the stove until most of the liquid had evaporated, which took about 30 minutes.

Before baking...

Next, I cut the crusts from about 15 slices of white bread, and cut the bread into strips to fit into the bottom of my ring mold. I sauteed the bread in butter, then lined the pan with the bread pieces. I packed the apple puree into the mold and covered it with some more of the buttered bread strips. I set the pan in the oven and baked it for about 30 minutes, while we ate our stew.

When I pulled the pan out of the oven, I was skeptical – the bread hadn’t really formed a crust as I had expected it would. It was more like crispy bread strips on top of a bunch of apple puree. Hm. This didn’t bode well. I could see that some of the edges of the bread had begun to burn, and I had a sneaking suspicion the end result wasn’t going to be good.

Sure enough, when I went to invert the pan onto a serving platter, I could tell that not all of the Apple Charlotte had released from the pan onto the plate. I flipped the whole thing back over and let it sit for a little while to cool, as Julia suggests. Later, I tried again – and got the same results. I used a butter knife to separate the bread from the sides of the pan, but even when I was finally able to get the whole dessert onto the plate, it wasn’t pretty, my friends. It wasn’t pretty at all.

The apple puree looked okay – but the bread lining was black and coagulated and gross. I peeled it away from the pan and set it aside – just to be sure, I took a little bite of one of the pieces and my suspicions were confirmed. Blech.

After the whole lamb stew debacle, I was already a little frustrated with the kitchen that night. This new development wasn’t helping. But as I stood there, staring at the ruined dessert on the counter at 2:30 in the morning, my husband watching me quietly to see how I would react, I took a deep breath and thought, “What would Julia do?”

Julia Child wouldn’t cry. Julia Child wouldn’t throw the whole mess across the room, sending it splattering all over her lovely kitchen walls. Julia Child would shrug, give a little operatic laugh and piece the whole thing together. Which is exactly what I did (minus the operatic laugh) while Ben played “Another One Bites the Dust” on his ipod. Because really, what else can you do in that situation?

Another one bites the dust.

I picked out the burnt bread pieces (which, as it turned out, was all of them) and scooped the apple filling into a separate bowl. I packed it in, then proceeded to make the sauce that was to go on top of the Apple Charlotte. I boiled some rum, apricot preserves and sugar in a small saucepan until it was thick and sticky, and I drizzled it over the top of the apples. Just for the heck of it, I sprinkled a little powdered sugar over the top to make it look a little prettier than it really was.

Apple Charlotte this dessert was not…but maybe it could be Apple Jessica? Sadly, I had to give this recipe attempt an F, which means I’ll have to tackle it again in the future, as the rules of this challenge clearly state the completed recipe has to be edible. Which this had not been. On the bright side, perhaps I had created my very own amazing French dessert!

Not-Quite Apple Charlotte

As it turned out, I had not. When we tried it Saturday night, it was way too sweet and I could only handle a couple of bites. Rats. I guess the purpose of the bread “crust” is to counteract some of the sweetness of the apples and the apricots. (I’m sure my “pretty” powdered sugar didn’t help the cause, either.) Oh, well. At least I didn’t cry. Besides, I still had those cheese wafers to look forward to!

Stay tuned for that story – the conclusion of our saga – later today…


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