Breakfast or Dessert?

The dessert Charlotte has been around for so long, no food historian can agree on the origin of the name. Some have decided it was named after a Russian princess while others say it is a derivation of a french word meaning custard. all I can tell you is that during the 19th century here in New England, we had a dessert that was referred to as Ice-box Cake. It was layers of stale bread(of course we Yankees don’t waste anything) with multiple layers of sliced fruit or stewed berries. It was prepared and set inside an ice-box. And please, don’t ask me what an ice-box is, I just can’t be the only one who knows what it is.
Here is an adaptation of this recipe that perfectly fits with the Holiday season and our times. I crossed French toast, mincemeat, fresh cranberries and citrus but kept with the traditional bread lining, which is perfectly suited for the recipe. Try it, you’ll love it.
You can use the cinnamon.sugar mixture or not, it is entirely up to you. On the left is using the sugar mixture, on the right is without.


New England French Toast Charlotte
Don’t be fooled by the name. This recipe is meant to mimic the taste of a sweet, cinnamon-scented French Toast breakfast while being served as a dessert. The aroma of this treat coming from the oven, while it is baking, is fantastic. Next to bread, warm, baked mincemeat is a comforting smell and with the addition of tart cranberries, suffice to say is a dessert to be kept alive here in New England. I used mini muffin tins for this recipe for a 6-serving yield. Of course you would want to double all ingredients if using normal sized muffin tins.

3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup apple, cranberry or orange juice
1 cup fresh cranberries
Butter flavored cooking spray
12 slices bread slices
1 cup prepared mincemeat
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon well, set aside. In a small saucepan, add the apple juice and cranberries and place a lid on it ajar to let the steam out but keep the liquid from splattering on you. Boil over medium-high heat for 3-3 1/2 minutes, or until the cranberries are tender. Remove from stove: set aside. Coat a 6-cup muffin tin(or you may use separate ramekins) well with butter-flavored cooking spray. Place bread slices on a cutting board or work surface and trim the crust off. Cut  12 bread circles with a (2-inch) round cutter or the rim of a glass that is as close in size as the bottom of the muffin cup. Don’t worry if half the circles are smaller than the top of the cup, everything will fit just fine; discard bread trimmings. Cut remainder of bread slices into rectangles that are about 1/2-3/4-inches side. Spray one side of a circle with spray and coat it with the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Lay this sugar side down in muffin cup. Do the same with a rectangular piece of bread, placing this strip on the side of the cup, sugared side out. You may have to take a piece of another strip of bread to fully form the ‘wall’ of the muffin cup. Repeat with all 6 muffin cups. In a bowl, combine mincemeat and orange zest together Scoop out the cranberries with only 3 tablespoons of the cranberry liquid and fold them in, discarding remainder of cooking liquid. Dollop 2 tablespoons mincemeat mixture into each well. Take the 6 remaining bread circles and spray one side with butter-flavored cooking spray and dip in the sugar/cinnamon mixture, coating well. Lay this circle on top of mincemeat mixture, pressing down firmly. Now bake 25-30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove from oven and either serve right-side up or upside down. Garnish with whipped cream or warm maple syrup if you like.

Makes 6 servings