A baked apple charlotte is a quintessentially British pudding. In its very traditional form, it involves slices of day-old white bread, moulded into a round casing, cemented with lashings of butter, a rich filling of apples and yet more butter - that is baked until the bread is golden. It is usually served with oodles of custard - and is even sometimes made with custard in the filling. Most charlottes are served cool, so they are more common in warmer seasons.
The apple charlotte has a long and prestigious history, appearing in late 18th century literature and more recently (and maybe less prestigiously, some would argue) in Downtown Abbey. Some say that this pudding was named in honour of Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), wife of George III, whose reign coincided with the emergence of this lovely concoction. The Queen was such a lover of the apple, that she actually became the patron of apple growers. Others suggest that the apple charlotte is a corruption of the Old English word charlyt meaning "a dish of custard". And yet others say that the dessert takes its name from Alexander I's sister-in-law, Charlotte of Prussia.
Everyone from Delia to Julia Child has a version of the apple charlotte; and then there is the anitpodean 1960s twist, straight from my Nana's recipe notes. Where the English version has the custard served alongside the pudding - or in the filling, the Aussie version has it straight in the pastry. I'm fairly sure the etymology of this recipe is to be found in a dusty 1960's edition of the Australian Women's Weekly. It is one of the dishes that stands out for my lovely Uncle, from the repotoire of my Nana's cooking. Like my uncle, I wouldn't be surprised if many Australians who grew up in the 1960s would remember this dessert featuring on the laminex dinner table on a hot summer evening.
In any event, here is Nan's version, that was immortaised in her notebook in elegant cursive script, dated March 1968:
Pastry2 cups plain flour
1 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup custard powder
1/2 cup cornflour
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
250g of butter or substitute
Water to mix
Filling8 medium sized apples (simmered with water until soft)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
(Nana's note: while stewing the apples, you can add 1/4 cup of sugar if the apples are tart; and 60g butter)
Icing1 cup of icing sugar
4 small passion fruit
To make the filling:
Peel and core apples, slice and place in a saucepan with a little water (and the sugar and butter if using). Simmer until apples are soft.
To make the pastry:
Step 1: sift dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in cubed, cold pieces of the butter - until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Mix to a stiff dough with water - then allow to chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Step 2: roll out two thirds of the pastry to line the base of a greased flan tin (with removable base). Ease the pastry into the base of the pan and around the sides of the tin. Spoon in cooled apple filling and sprinkle with nutmeg. Brush the edges of the pastry with milk.
Step 3: Roll out the remaining pastry and press down lightly over apple, sealing the edges.
Step 4: Neatly trim the edges of the pastry and bake in a very hot oven for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to moderate and bake for around 20 mins.
Step 5: allow to cool completely by placing in the refrigerator. When completely cool, pour over icing and smooth over the top of the pie. Allow the icing to set before serving.
To make the icing:
Sift icing sugar into a bowl and then add passion fruit pulp and stir until smooth. You may need to add a little water to give a good consistency to the icing.