7 pages of recipe...this one is not on the easy list, for sure. I tackled it in stages, but still found the process pretty exhausting.
I baked the biscuit the weekend before, got it cut into the required pieces, spread with the strained apricot preserves, and into the freezer. No real problems following the diagram to cut out an 8" circle and 4 long rectangles of biscuit, but I should have alternated ends when I was spreading on apricot preserves and making my stack, as the not-completely-even-thickness of my biscuit was exaggerated by stacking 3 of the 4 layers the same way. I had one issue with the recipe: the "strained apricot preserves" recipe never says to strain the preserves--I'm guessing that an editor removed a line or two to not make this an 8-page recipe, and so you need to infer that you start with 1 cup of preserves, strain them, and end up with about 2/3 cup. The "recipe" starts off telling you to heat the strained preserves, skipping all that.
Next up, on Thursday night, was poaching the apples with their peel (to get a nice pink color). I got a nicely pink liquid, but somewhat splotchy colored apples. The final effect was nice, though, perhaps because I had plenty of apple slices and could pick and choose the prettier ones. I might have left the apples a tad undercooked despite paoching them a good bit longer than the given time. The charlotte was hard to serve as the knife sometimes dragged a slightly toothsome apple slice partly into the charlotte. Anyway, the apples were left to cool overnight in the fridge.
Friday was Charlotte Day: the rest of the recipe has to be done sequentially, as best I could tell, with no places to put stuff in the fridge or freezer and come back later (or not much, anyway). It took me all afternoon to get the charlotte into the mold--4-1/2 hours or so, with a little time out to make the weekly challah. I also dirtied more dishes than I can recall using on a single project, ever.
First up was dealing with the cake shell, as it must be ready to receive the charlotte mixture. Slicing the semi-frozen stack of biscuit/apricot jam layer cake was not too difficult, but I made the mistake of lining up my slices in a long row (touching), then realized that I had to pick them up and place them vertically around the ring from my 9" springform pan. Once stuck together, though, the slices separate only by pulling the crust off the attached layer, and it was hard to get them back together without a noticeable defect. It was equally hard to pick up a 10-inch or so piece of striped cake pieces and get it over to the cake plate and into the ring without the whole thing falling apart. I moved some 6 inch sections into the pan without too much mess, but this effort perhaps explains why some of my vertical stripes of cake crust and apricot jam are a little wavy. Call it an "artistic effect", please.
On to the filling, with three major components: an apple caramel custard made from the apple poaching liquid, an Italian meringue (just call these my nemesis), and whipped cream. The caramel making was OK, though the caramel cooled and solidified while I grabbed for the hot apple-poaching liquid and then took forever to dissolve. No problems with the rest of the custard, or with the whipped cream. The Italian meringue, though.... We've made Italian meringue several times by now, and (unlike genoise) I still have trouble with it. Attempts with the stand mixer had resulted in globs of sugar syrup in the egg white, either from being flung on the sides of the bowl or not beaten in fast enough. Using a handheld mixer works somewhat better for me, except that I need at least 3 hands. This time was fairly typical--as I tried to add the sugar syrup slowly to the egg white without getting any in the beaters and while continuing to get the mixture evenly beaten, the syrup hardened in my glass measuring cup. Reheated in the microwave, only a quarter of the remaining syrup could be persuaded to flow and be added to the egg whites. A repeat microwaving didn't help. I finally decided it would be fine if the meringue was less sweet than intended given my family's preferences, and that it probably wouldn't make much difference structurally. I notice that it was the meringue making that stopped my photography, and I jumped from the custard to a shot of the finished charlotte mixture. No wonder!
However, the charlotte was finally glopped into the cake shell and smoothed out, then went into the fridge to firm up while I went next door for dinner. After dinner, I tackled the final steps: slicing the apples thinly, then arranging the slices atop the charlotte in a flower design, then making a glaze of the last bit of poaching liquid thickened with arrowroot and brushing it over the top. My apples were a little small, perhaps, and so when they were cored many slices were pretty thin in the middle. Still, by picking and choosing I got a reasonable flower look, brushed on the glaze, and went to bed. Long day...this was a lot of effort for a cake.
Taste results: It's a hit, though having heard my description of the steps involved, both younger niece and sister-in-law questioned whether it was worth it. Co-workers scarfed down the slices that went into the office on Monday and raved over the taste, in between asking "what is it?" I guess charlottes are no longer very common.
In summary, it's a beautiful presentation, no question about it, but I don't think I'll ever repeat this one as a whole. Younger niece would like the poached apples alone, I'd certainly use the filling in some other dish (but there are simpler recipes I like about as well), but the full apple caramel charlotte is going in the "glad I tried it, but won't repeat" camp.