Strawberry Charlotte Russe

In further efforts to continue to use up the massive Jell-O stash I came back from the US with, I decided to whip up one last summery dessert as these days are feeling more like Indian Summer than fall here in Edinburgh, and of course because I didn't want to eat an entire charlotte by myself (or even with Judson's help), I sent it to work with him. But I guess I didn't do a good enough job of explaining to him what it was, because the next time I ran into his coworkers at a happy hour a few days later, they all thanked me for 'the pink Jell-O cake', which actually only sounds marginally weirder than what a charlotte actually is.

This is one of those desserts I've always wanted to try (probably because my favourite shop as a kid was named after it) but never really had any idea what it was or how to make it, and the little amount of knowledge I had about it had me thinking it was way too difficult to experiment with. In doing some research before I started this, I learned that this is, in fact, a charlotte russe, differentiated from a regular charlotte by the fact that it's filled with fruit and bavarian cream (itself differentiated from pastry cream by the presence of gelatin) rather than cake or... other stuff. Confusingly, a charlotte royale is also completely different, being surrounded by swiss roll instead of lady fingers.

Lining for the pan

Lining for the pan

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It turns out it's not too difficult (as long as you start with pre-made lady fingers!*), but it is a pretty weird dessert so I don't know that I'll be making it again any time soon. It's good if you have a large group you're making it for, because you're not going to want more than one slice of it and it's not a dessert that keeps well.

*Ok, so my grocery store used to sell lady fingers, and I always wondered why because they're a pretty boring biscuit. Of course, as soon as I decided to make this recipe, ALL OF THE supermarkets in Edinburgh seemed to stop selling them at once. I eventually found a single package at my local Scotmid... but when I unwrapped them, it turned out they read 'BOUDOIR' on one side. Why??

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The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. Overall, it was totally worth it and I recommend making it if you really love pink... or if you have one last summer fling before autumn starts.

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two years ago: Crab Souffle

the recipe:

Strawberry Charlotte Russe

the directions:

Line the sides of a springform tin with parchment or waxed paper.
Cut ladyfingers in half and arrange them vertically around the edge of the pan, flat side down. (Note that I was afraid the charlotte would be so deep that I only cut the ends off. This was unnecessary and meant that I didn't have enough pieces to fully surround the charlotte. If you're using a standard 8 or 9-inch springform pan, you'll only need lady fingers that are about 1 1/2 inches tall, so you can slice the cookies in half without a problem).
Set prepared pan aside while you prepare the filling.
Place gelatin in a large bowl and pour boiling water over.
Stir well until dissolved, then set aside.
Combine strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and salt.
Stir until sugar is dissolved, then add to gelatin mixture.
Gently fold in whipped cream, then spoon or pour carefully into the prepared pan.
Chill until firm, at least 5 hours, but preferably overnight.
Remove the sides of springform pan and the waxed paper.
Decorate top with additional whipped cream and whole strawberries.

the ingredients:

1 pkg lady fingers
6 oz. strawberry gelatin (powdered)
2 c boiling water
1 ½ c strawberries, lightly crushed + additional whole strawberries for decorating
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 c whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks + additional for decorating