I don't usually crave desserts but I was watching James Martin make an apple charlotte the other day on the Great British Food Revival (reruns). He's really the man to go for desserts I think, no fear whatsoever of fat or carbs or all things 'bad', though honestly, I'd say this one is a pretty healthy dessert. Apple charlotte is a classic British dessert, made with butter-soaked bread, moulded in a ramekin and filled with apples. It's actually pretty simple to make and uses up leftover bread which is a plus.
I was thinking about my trip to Chiang Mai again and the lovely Thai people (and the elephants) who lead simple, happy lives and appreciate what nature has to offer. I didn't even see apples- the most 'basic' of fruits imo- anywhere in the menu or markets. On the other hand, they had lots of local seasonal PINEapples. I'm back to Singapore now where I can easily get a Japanese Fuji apple or a New Zealand Gala apple, but hey, if I'm staying in the tropics where I can get some beautiful tropical pineapples, why stick to apples flown in from around the world?
Hence, my take on the British classic. I find I don't need extra sugar because pineapples are so intensely sweet, unlike a bramley apple filling.
Spiced Pineapple Charlotte with Coconut Cream
serves 4 (you'll need 4 ramekins)
1/2 a pineapple, chopped into small pieces (depends on size of pineapple actually. just have enough to fill up your ramekins.)
4-6 slices of bread (I used a soft sourdough sandwich bread)
100g salted (grassfed) butter, melted
big pinch of cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
1 star anise
coconut cream (the top creamy bit on top of your coconut milk)
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Add a tbsp of butter and cook the pineapple with the spices gently for about 5-10 min or till tender. (I think adding a pinch of cornflour mixed with some water to make a slurry to get a thicker jam-like consistency would be helpful here too, though I didn't do it and the charlotte didn't suffer.)
2. Remove the crust from the bread and slice into thin rectangles. Brush with melted butter, making sure there are no unbuttered spots or, just dip the bread fingers into the melted butter.
4. Arrange the buttered bread fingers around the edges of the ramekin (I used a large oven-safe teacup), overalapping to make sure there are no gaps.
5. Fill the well with the pineapple filling (remove star anise!) , then cover with the remaining bread fingers, packing down the mixture tightly. You can even cover it with a plate and weigh it down.
6. Bake the charlottes for about 25 minutes, till golden brown. Allow to cool before turning out onto a shallow dish and then serve with the coconut cream poured generously around the pudding.
This was divine, just 4 key ingredients, and hardly any effort at all. The outside is crisp, slightly salty and very buttery, and the inside, a sweet gooey mess. Apple charlotte is usually served with cream or warm custard, but keeping to my tropical theme, I used coconut cream, and its distinct fragrance and richness paired wonderfully with the spiced pineapple. I know its not the best-looking pudding you can get, what with my lousy patchwork skills and teacup mould and hence that warped dome shape, but taste and texture-wise it's all good, and like my friend used to say, it all goes into the stomach anyway;)