The past few months all seem like a dream now. There is a reason to why I havnen’t updated my blog for so long. I have news to share: my brother and I have became owners of Beaucoup Bakery. This special place is where I started my pastry career. We cannot be more grateful to be blessed with this amazing opportunity. Thinking back, this journey was nothing but surreal. Excuse my long story to come.
About five years ago, I decided to take on a different career path. I knew baking was always my passion, so I applied for a baker position at handful of places in town. The only promising response I received was from Beaucoup Bakery. The then-owner, Jackie and I share some similarities – we were both once graphic designers, who are extremely passionate about pastries. Knowing that I had no professional pastry experience, she took me on as a stagiaire, mentoring me every step of the way. Fast-forwarding to four years later, I somehow became the chef. Jackie has many ventures of her own, she asked me if I wanted to have her successful business so she could focus on other projects. I knew this was a dream come true. With great courage, I decided to take over with my brother, who worked as a barista and assistant manager.
Two weeks ago, I finally raided the bakery loft since taking over. Then I found a mountain of baking tools and gadgets that were never used. I can only imagine that Jackie once had ideas to make some of these but never found the time, so they were eventually forgotten over time. I “unearthed” a Charlotte mould, something that I have always wanted. In fact, I was contemplating on whether or not to get one the last time I was in Paris. Inheriting this Charlotte form made me feel like I am finally the owner of this bakery.
For a fresh start I made a Charlotte for the first time. As there is a first time for everything, including running a business. Charlotte is a dessert composed of lady fingers, Bavarian cream, and fresh fruits. This classic is easy and elegant. In true French fashion, I made the lady fingers from scratch. Instead of a regular Bavarian cream, I added pistachio paste for the twist and lovely flavour. Pistachio and strawberry make an exquisite combination (so are raspberry and cherry). Thus the strawberry pistachio Charlotte is born.
- 1/4 cup / 50 g sugar
- 1/3 cup / 70 g water
- 1/2 cup / 100 g strawberries
- 1 cup / 120 all-purpose flour, sifted
- 4 eggs, separated
- 2/3 cup / 120 g granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup / 50 g icing sugar
- 1 cup plus tbsp whipping cream
- 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp / 200 g whole milk
- 5 gelatin sheets (10 g)
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup / 90 g sugar
- 1 tbsp / 10 g cornstarch
- 1 tbsp / 20 g pure pistachio paste
- 1-1/2 cup / 300 g diced strawberries
- 1 cup / 100 g fresh strawberries
- shelled pistachios
- In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients, and heat on medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil and cook until strawberries are tender, about 3 minutes. Take off heat, blend mixture with an immersion blender until it becomes a syrup consistency. Set aside, and let cool until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 400F / 200 C. Line two baking trays with parchment. Fit a large piping bag with a 1 cm plain tip if you have one or cut a opening of 1 cm on the tip before piping.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, start whipping egg whites on high speed until it becomes frothy. Reduce speed to medium, add sugar in 2-3 addition, increase speed to high again, whip until firm. Pour in egg yolks, whip on medium until it reaches a "ribbon" consistency. (The mixture should be pale yellow, almost white in color. When you lift the whisk over the mixture the batter should fall slowly forming a ribbon that will hold it's shape for a few minutes.)
- Add in sifted flour, gently fold in with a silicone spatula until there is no more traces of dry flour. Refrain from over-mixing as it will deflate the batter too much and ladyfingers will not hold their shape.
- On one baking tray, pipe 15 5-inch (12 cm) ladyfingers. On the second tray, using a plate or a lid as a template, draw two circles as guides. Pipe rounds using the guide. Dust ladyfingers and disks with icing sugar.
- Baking one tray at a time, bake each tray for 8 - 10 minutes until edges have turned light brown. Rotate the trays halfway through. Let cool until ready to assemble.
- Bloom (soak) gelatin sheets in cold water, set aside.
- In a small saucepan, infuse vanilla bean, seeds and milk on medium heat. While heating, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Temper yolks by gradually adding hot milk in the yolk mixture.
- Return mixture into the saucepan, cook until mixture is just boiling. Squeeze out excess moisture from the bloomed gelatin, incorporate in the hot mixture. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl, put a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Let cool in a cold water bath.
- In a chilled mixer bowl, whip whipping cream to soft peaks. Add one-third of the whipped cream to the custard, whisk to incorporate. Add in the rest of the whipped cream and pistachio paste, lightly incorporate with a spatula until cream is incorporated.
- Brush the bottoms of the lady fingers and sponge disks with strawberry syrup. Pack the ladyfingers tightly (upright) around the side of the Charlotte mould.
- Pour one-third of the cream in the mould, cover with diced strawberries, place a sponge disk on it, and press down lightly. Pour in more Barvarian cream leaving about a 1 cup for the last layer, distribute the remaining strawberries on top. Spread the rest of the cream on top, and press the other sponge disk on top. Cover the top with plastic. Chill until the cream sets, for at least two hours.
- If necessary, trim the ladyfingers to flush the rim of the mould. To serve, dip the bottom of the mould in hot water, place a plate over the mould, and carefully revert the Charlotte on the the plate.
- Garnish the top with fresh strawberries and pistachios, serve.
The amount of pistachio paste to use depends on the taste of the product, some have sugar, flavouring and colouring, while the one I used is made from pure pistachios. I used another brand of pistachio paste in the pistachio raspberry financier recipe, as it was much stronger, I had to cut back on the amount. If you can’t find pistachio paste, you can use another nut paste/butter or simply omit it to make a vanilla and strawberry charlotte.
It has been a while since I last made ladyfingers at home. Ever since making them for a Tiramisu, I have never gone back to buying them. Homemade ladyfingers taste so fresh and flavourful that it is worthwhile to spend the time and effort. The texture is between sponge cake and cookie, I could snack on them all day long. Soaked in the strawberry syrup, they become a soft fruity sponge and makes an delicious base of the Charlotte. Barvarian cream is one of my favourite cream fillings, it is custard based, lightened with whipped cream, and set with gelatin. It is similar to diplomat cream, but has more structure so it can be set in moulds and served as desserts.
This pistachio Barvarian cream is rich yet light while the tart and juicy berries boasts their freshness. My first Charlotte was a success. It is the perfect summer indulgence! Thank you for reading and following along with my little story!