We use brioche when making charlottes because it produces a crispier, richer crust. The charlottes can be made ahead and reheated.
- 7 ripe pears, such as Comice or Bartlett, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon pear liqueur
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 ounces (1 stick) sweet butter
- 1 (9 1/2 by 5 1/2 by 2-inch) loaf brioche, sliced 3/16-inch thick, crusts removed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 recipe Vanilla Custard Sauce, recipe follows
- Creme fraiche
- Equipment: 8 (6-ounce) ramekins 3 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches deep
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Put the pear slices in a large saute pan with 2/3 cup sugar, the salt, pear liqueur, and lemon juice. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the pears are soft. Set aside to cool.
Butter each piece of brioche with the cinnamon butter. With the long side of the bread closest to you, cut each slice into 3 pieces. Line the sides of the ramekins with the brioche pieces, buttered-side against the ramekin.
Compactly fill the inside of each ramekin with about 1/4 cup of the pear mixture. Trim off any brioche that sticks up above the ramekin.
Bake the charlottes for 15 to 20 minutes, until the brioche is toasted.
Spoon some of the vanilla custard sauce on 4 plates, and unmold the charlottes on top.
Top each with a dollop of creme fraiche.
Vanilla Custard Sauce:
10 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
3 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or a 1-inch piece vanilla bean
creamy. Set aside.
Put the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook the custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken. It should coat the back of the wooden spoon. Do not let it boil.
Yield: 3 1/2 cups