Charlotte aux Fraises

Charlotte aux Fraises (shahr-lot oh frehz) is a luscious, creamy dessert, grandly suited to the special occasion and zoell

worth the care and effort necessary to prepare it.

6 fl. oz. orange-flavoured liqueur

3 fl. oz. water

28-30 sponge finger biscuits 6 oz. unsalted butter , softened

4 oz. castor sugar

½ teaspoon almond essence 3 oz. ground almonds 8 fl. oz. double cream 1 lb. fresh or frozen strawberries

Line the bottom of a 2-pint mould with a round of greaseproof or waxed paper. In a small bowl, mix together half of the liqueur and the water. One by one, dip the sponge fingers into the mixture, coating them well. Be careful not to saturate the biscuits or they will be soggy. Line the sides of the mould with the moistened biscuits, reserving the extras to use

later. Trim the sponge fingers if they are higher than the mould. Set the mould aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with the back of a wooden spoon until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the remaining liqueur, the almond essence and the ground almonds and, with the spoon or a wire whisk, beat

until all the ingredients are well blended.

In another medium-sized bowl, whip the cream with a whisk until it is thick but not stiff. Beat the cream vigorously into the butter-and-almond mixture and continue beating until a smooth paste is formed. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to

chill.

Prepare the strawberries by washing and hulling them if they are fresh, or thawing them if they are frozen. Dry them well on kitchen paper towels. Set them aside, keeping back about 6 straw-berries for decoration.

Spoon about one-half of the almond-cream mixture into the mould. Arrange a layer of strawberries on top, followed by a layer of sponge fingers. Repeat the process, finishing with the last of the sponge fingers. Cover the mould with

greaseproof or waxed ‘paper and place a large weight or other similarly heavy object (the same diameter as the inside of the mould) on top. Place the mould in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Remove the weight and the top layer of paper and run a sharp knife around the mould to ease the sides of the Charlotte.

Place a serving dish, inverted, over the top of the mould and reverse the two. The Charlotte should slide out on to the dish. Peel off the second round of paper and decorate the top and sides of the Charlotte with the remaining straw-berries.

Serve very cold.

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