Recipes inspired by novels
From A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
For Francie, a charlotte russe is an unattainable dessert, ogled through fancy bakery windows or served in elegant homes.
Charlotte Russe is made in a mold lined with liqueur-soaked lady-fingers and filled with Bavarian cream. According to Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy, Jr., authors of The Brooklyn Cookbook, charlotte russe, “Brooklyn’s ambrosia,” was ubiquitous in Brooklyn during the early part of the twentieth century – sold from pushcarts on the corners as well as in bakeries. “To old time Brooklynites, a charlotte russe was a round of sponge cake stopped with sweetened whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, and sometimes a maraschino cherry, surrounded by a frilled cardboard holder with a round of carboard on the bottom,” write Stallworth and Kennedy. Charlotte russe had a variety of pronunciations in Brooklyn, among them “charley roose” and “charlotte roosh.”
¼ cup kirsch (cherry brandy)
2 tablespoons juice from maraschino cherries
2 3-ounce packages ladyfingers
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
½ cup boiling water
12 ounces semisweet chocolate
6 eggs, separated
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ cups heavy cream
Maraschino cherries for garnish
Sweetened Whipped Cream for topping
1. Combine the kirsch and cherry juice in a small bowl, then brush the flat side of the ladyfingers with the mixture. Line the side of a 9-inch springform pan with ladyfingers, brushed side facing in. Line the bottom with the remaining ladyfingers, brushed side up (overlapping them if necessary).
2. Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water. Set aside. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler and set aside.
3. Beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer at high speed until foamy, then add the sugar gradually, beating until thick. Reduce the speed and add the vanilla and almond extracts, coffee, and melted chocolate.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir 1 cup of egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining whites.
5. In another bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form, and fold it into chocolate mixture.
6. Pour the mixture on top of the ladyfingers in the prepared pan. Freeze until firm, 4-6 hours. Before serving, garnish with a ring of maraschino cherries. Serve each piece with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipping cream.
Yield: 10 servings.