Teacup Apple Charlottes are layered with soft ladyfingers, vanilla custard and tender spiced apples. Make them ahead for an elegant Thanksgiving Day dessert.
I hope you won’t mind the many apple desserts I have on the agenda this month. I’m trying to use the bounty that my mom brought me from her trip to an orchard. It’s been fun to think up new ways to use them, and this recipe is one I loved instantly!
This Teacup Apple Charlottes recipe is my riff on the British classic. The original is made with buttered white bread that lines a pudding tin, then it’s filled with cooked apples and served with a sweet sauce and whipped cream. This version isn’t quite as elaborate, and presented in teacups!
Begin by making a crème patissiere. Making this always feels special because it tastes so indulgent. It’s one of my favorite pastry elements. I usually break out the vanilla bean paste or split half a vanilla bean and scoop the seeds into the custard. If you don’t have those on hand, just use vanilla extract. The result will still be lovely.
Cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap so it doesn’t develop a skin. Refrigerate it until you’re ready to assemble. One important note: Crème patissiere should be thick enough to hold in a spoon. This is not a sauce, it’s a custard. Be sure you cook it until thickened.
Next, bubble up some sugar and water together in a skillet – just until the edges start to caramelize. You can see here it’s lightly golden and ready for the next step.
Have the apples ready to pour in at a moment’s notice. Caramelization happens quickly, and requires a watchful eye. The caramelized edges may seize up a little when the apples are added but this is normal.
Punch up the flavor!
Immediately pour in the juice of one orange and some apple brandy, if you have it. I did not have this on hand, so I added a little boiled cider to the mixture. Stir, stir, stir. You may see little clumps of caramelized sugar lurking about. Keep stirring while cooking and they’ll dissolve in the acidic juice of the orange.
Cook the apples down until most of the moisture has evaporated, and the apples are golden brown and shiny with syrup.
Prep the teacups.
Line six teacups with ready-made soft lady fingers standing upright. You can find these at most grocery stores in the bakery aisle. This is a wonderful shortcut without compromising flavor.
Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the cups, about 1/3 of the way full.
Next, spoon in the apples. Aim for equal parts crème patissiere and apples for a nice balance. The apples are a little sharp, especially if you use Granny Smith apples.
Whipped cream can be served on the side, but I think the desserts look best presented with a big dollop on top.
I could see these being served as a fun ending to Thanksgiving dinner, and the components can be made ahead. I’m always for a low stress dessert, especially when entertaining a houseful of people.
Teacup Apple Charlottes
- 6 oz. teacups (6)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 6 Granny Smith apples peeled cored and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons apple brandy or boiled apple cider
- 1/4 cup orange juice from 1 large orange
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 36 ready-made soft lady fingers about 1 1/2 packages
- Ground cinnamon for garnish
- In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of the milk. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks, one at a time, into the cornstarch mixture.
- In a saucepan, combine the remaining 3/4 cup milk and the sugar; bring to a boil whisking constantly. While whisking the egg mixture, slowly pour 1/4 of the hot milk into it, to temper the eggs. Return the remaining milk in the saucepan to medium-low heat.
- Pour the hot egg mixture into the saucepan in a thin stream, whisking, so as to not scramble the eggs. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla; stir in the salt.
- Pour the pastry cream into a bowl and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface so it does not form a skin. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Place the sugar and water into a saucepan set over medium heat. Cook gently until the sugar has dissolved and turns lightly golden at the edges. Immediately pour in the chopped apples, add the apple brandy or boiled cider, orange juice, cinnamon, and butter. Stir together briskly. The caramel may seize when the apples are added; this is normal. Keep stirring until lumps have disappeared. Cook uncovered over medium high heat. Cook for 10 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated and the apples are fork tender. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip the cream on high until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and vanilla extract. Whip until stiff peaks form.
- Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator until ready for use.
- Place six 6 oz. teacups on a baking sheet or tray. Line each teacup with six soft ladyfingers standing upright. Spoon or pipe the pastry cream into the bottoms of the teacups, about 1/3 full. Add an equal amount of spiced apples on top.
- Add dollops of Chantilly cream on top of each cup. Sprinkle with pinches of cinnamon and you’re ready to serve!