nectarine mousse

Today’s post is dedicated to Marie Antoine (Antonin) Careme, 1783-1833. To be honest, I didn’t know who he was until I picked up a copy of the biography Cooking for Kings by Ian Kelly. It’s a wonderful exploration of the the life of one of France’s greatest chefs and is a must read for anyone who loves cooking and baking. Here’s a sample:

“Imagine yourself in a large kitchen before a great dinner. There one sees twenty chefs at their urgent occupations, coming and going, moving with speed in the cauldron of heat. Look at the mass of great burning charcoal, a whole cubic metre for the cooking of entrees and another mass on the ovens for the cooking of the soups, the sauces, the ragouts, the frying and the bain-maries. Add to that a heap of burning wood in front of which four spits are turning, one of which bears a sirloin weighing 45-60 pounds, another a piece of veal weighing 35-45 pounds, the other two for foul and game. In this furnace everyone moved with tremendous speed, not a sound was heard; only I had the right to be heard and at the sound of my soft voice, everyone obeys. Finally, to put a lid on our sufferings, for about an hour the doors and windows are closed so that the air does not cool the food as it is being dished up. And in this way, I passed the best days of my life.” p. 26

Of course, Careme achieved his greatest fame as a pastry chef. His gifts to the world of pastry are many and include the voul a vent and the chef’s toque. His architectural desserts are the basis of the modern day wedding cake.
The book also includes recipes such as Careme’s Nectarine Plombiere which I decided to make and feature in this post.
nectarine verrine
nectarine verrine with lady fingers
As you can imagine, the recipe from the early 1800’s didn’t turn out quite as expected. The measurements differed from those used today. For example, take the instruction “add three glasses of full cream milk” – one can only guess what “three glasses” means and you can be sure his cream is not the same as what we use today.
I did love the idea of using fresh nectarines and decided to try again using a generic mousse recipe and nectarines I picked from the orchard. The results were so abundant and delicious I decided to fill a few glasses and make a nectarine charlotte.
If you haven’t had a charlotte you’re in for a real treat. It’s basically a lady finger cake filled with mousse and topped with fresh fruit. It’s one of our favorite desserts. In fact, we served charlottes at our wedding instead of traditional wedding cake.
I know you’ll enjoy this recipe. It’s fun to make, it’s beautiful and most importantly, it’s delicious. It’s also great way to celebrate and use freshly picked local fruit.

And, seriously, how can you go wrong with a book about the man who created Marie Antoinette’s last meal?

Orchard-Fresh Nectarine Mousse and Charlotte
I. Lady Fingers
6 eggs, separated
7 oz. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 oz. flour, sifted
Powdered sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat the egg whites until almost firm. Add sugar and beat until firm and shiny. Fold in the vanilla and egg yolks by hand. Gradually sprinkle flour into the mixture while simultaneously folding.
Pipe mixture onto a Silpat lined pastry sheet. You want them to be about the height of the mold you are using. You’ll also want to pipe some of the batter into a circle equal to the diameter of the bottom of your mold. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar. Allow the sugar to absorb. Sprinkle with powdered sugar again.
Bake 10-14 minutes, until they turn light beige in color.
The size of the ladyfingers will depend upon the size of the mold you are using.
II. Nectarine Puree
15 peeled and stoned nectarines
6 oz. sugar
Boil the nectarines with the sugar into a marmalade. Strain and allow to cool. Note: I’ve tried this both cooked and uncooked. Cooking enhances the flavor of this particular fruit immeasurably.
III. Pate a Bombe (see here for recipe)
IV. Nectarine Mousse
4 oz pate a bombe
3 sheets of gelatin
6 oz fresh nectarine puree
2 cup heavy cream, whipped with 2 tbs. sugar to a soft peak
Heat the nectarine puree until warm. Soften the gelatin in ice water and then gently melt it in the microwave (maybe 8 seconds). Mix the gelatin with the nectarine puree. Mix into the pate a bombe and whisk until it is well incorporated. Please note, all ingredients need to be about the same temperature or the gelatin will become stringy. Fold in the whipped cream.
V. Assembling the Charlotte
Place the mold on a sheet pan. Line the base with the round you made out of the lady finger batter. Line the sides of the mold with the lady fingers placed vertically. Fill the lined mold with nectarine mousse. Chill until firm. Serve with sliced nectarines.
Bon Appetit!


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  1. How beautiful! I love learning about how people did things differently in different time periods. I am sure it is fascinating to read about a kitchen during that time period and especially such a royal kitchen. It must have been amazing.

  2. I’ve never had a charlotte, but I love the combination of delicate lady fingers, mousse, and nectarines which are at the peak of its season now. This is an incredibly elegant dessert that deserved its spot on your wedding menu.

  3. I’d love to make this one day! Thrilled to see that you made your own lady fingers! WOW!! That book sounds like such a must have! We’re done with stone fruits here, and I can only look longingly at your beautiful glasses… YUM!!

  4. Your post really sheds light on the past and the amount of work that went into preparing elegant food like this. (And don’t forget about the minions who were standing by to aid the chef, another factor that consigns this kind of baking to the truly devoted in modern times!) Sadly there are no substitutions for homemade lady fingers, so fresh and feathery light! I applaud your ambition and perseverance in making this dessert–it is gorgeous and such a labor of love. Definitely a reminder to tuck away for a special occasion. Thanks!

  5. I’ve never heard of a charlotte but it looks incredible. I love the idea of a mousse filled cake. Gorgeous pics too!

  6. What a beautiful post. Anyone who can inspire me to read as you have has a gift. I am a reader, but this is truly inspirational. And the charlotte? Absolutely gorgeous. I have a daughter marrying in the early summer next year. This would be a beautiful dessert for the family dinner. Thank you!
    Big hug,

  7. I learned about Careme a while back through a BBC program about patisserrie and I read a bit about him as well. He was also a great cook. Love this adaptation of yours.
    Serving mini charlottes to your wedding… how sweet is that?! 🙂

  8. El, it’s gorgeous. Your photos are magnificent. Do you have any preferences of fruit for the charlotte? I know you dared to try nectarine this time but have you tried it with other favors as well? oxoxo Jen

  9. What is funny is that the French still measure “glassfuls”! I recently made a bread and one recipe called for a small glass of rum. I asked my French husband and he knew exactly the glass refered to! Your desserts look tempting and luscious and perfect. I want to make them. The charlotte is gorgeous!

  10. Thanks for the kind words everyone.

    Confessions- They are from a consignment shop

    Elisabet- The last meal Queen Marie Antionette ate before her execution was vermicelli soup

    Jen- any flavor works well in a charlotte. I’ve made them with raspberry, strawberry and chocolate and have had key lime.

    If you have any other questions, just ask. I love hearing from you!

  11. Oooo. I don’t even like mousse usually but that white mousse with nectarines looks heavenly. We’re starting to hit the low end on nectarines in Hawaii so I’ll have to search.

  12. Wow, sorry for being late to the party, but I’m so impressed with your charlottes! It’s a recipe that I’ve always found daunting because the final product looks so perfect, like yours 🙂

    What type of mold do you use – does it need to equal the height of the lady fingers?

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