Are you a “Charlotte”? Or a “Samantha” or a “Miranda” or a “Carrie”? Whichever Sex and the City character you most identify with, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this French-inspired delectation. I’m tempted to say that this incarnation is akin to the far-off, several-times-removed, unrefined cousin of the regal original, but that doesn’t seem quite fair (though it may be somewhat accurate). As simple as this dessert is (I’ve had it for breakfast, it’s got yogurt in it!), it still presents beautifully, and you’ll undoubtedly find yourself being the talk of the dinner party for serving up such an elegant-looking sweet treat.
The true and original Charlotte is straight-up white gloves and tails fancy, made with crème pâtissière (a thick custard), ladyfingers (splendid little Milano-looking cookies, not the severed digits of a number of unfortunate and unsuspecting females), and all manner of seasonal fruity treasures. As I said before, this version has been significantly relaxed from the original, however, it’s still altogether delectable. We’ll be swapping out the crème pâtissière for plain Greek yogurt (you can use vanilla if you really want to, but it’s nice to have a bit of tartness to counteract the sweetness of the fruit and wafers), Nilla Wafers for the ladyfingers (silly Americans, you and your boxed cookies…), and canned apricots and fresh strawberries (or whatever other fruit you may desire). Did I mention that this dish is crazy easy to assemble? Truly, it is. What say you to that!
Simplest Apricot Charlotte
Adapted from Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes (BTW this is one of my new favorite summer reads)
1 24 oz tub (about 3 cups) plain Greek yogurt (I prefer Chobani or Fred Meyer brand, but I used Greek Gods this time. It’s got kind of an odd consistency in my opinion, so it’s not ideal, but it’s all I had at the time.)
1 16 oz can of halved apricots in heavy syrup
1 11 oz box of Nilla Wafers (You’ll likely not use them all for the recipe; I was just trying to account for the ones that will be snacked on while assembling this fruity delight.)
1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 small saucepan (about 6″ diameter)
1 spoon or spatula
1 paring knife
1 cutting board
At least four hours prior to assembling the Charlotte, half and hull the strawberries. Dust about one tablespoon of granulated sugar over the strawberries and toss them about so that each berry gets a light coating of sugar. Cover the strawberries and pop them in the fridge for at least four hours. When they’re ready to use, they should be extra sweet and a little syrupy.
To assemble the Charlotte, line a small saucepan (about 6″ in diameter) with plastic wrap. Arrange Nilla Wafers around the bottom and edge of the pan, packing them as tightly as you can. Over the Nilla Wafers, spread a layer of Greek yogurt, being sure to coat and completely cover each wafer. Next, cut side facing you, arrange the halved apricots on top of the Greek yogurt. Add another layer of Nilla Wafers atop the apricots. Drizzle a bit of the syrup from the apricots over the Nilla Wafers. Spread another layer of yogurt on top of the Nilla Wafers. Arrange the hulled and halved sweetened strawberries over the Greek yogurt, then spread another thin layer of yogurt. Finally, top the final layer of yogurt with one more layer of Nilla Wafers. Drizzle a bit of the juice/syrup from the strawberries of the wafers. Spread plastic wrap over the Charlotte, fully trapping it in wrap. Invert a dinner plate (ceramic or plastic, not paper) over the Charlotte. I prefer to put a few things (like a tub of sour cream) atop the plate just for weight so that the Charlotte is well-compressed. Allow the Charlotte to set for at least six hours or overnight before serving.
To serve the Charlotte, remove the plate, and carefully peel off the top layer of plastic wrap. Replace the plate, then carefully invert the saucepan, very gently wiggling it to dislodge the compressed Charlotte. Carefully, peel off the top layer of plastic wrap that was lining the pan. Cut with a serrated knife to get a clean cut through the fruit. Garnish with any leftover berries or other fruit that you may have. This dish may be served for breakfast (my mom had it as her Mother’s Day breakfast today!), brunch, lunch, or dessert. Keeps in the refrigerator for about 1-2 days. Enjoy!