A Charlotte Russe is a firm-set mousse lined with sponge fingers. The mousse is made in dariole moulds, but there’s no need to go splashing out on lots of new equipment –you can just use a ramekin instead, or a regular-sized coffee mug lined with cling film and half-filled with the mixture. Serves 4
Vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
4 leaves of gelatine (check on the packet how much is needed to set 570–600ml/1 pint liquid)
2 large perfectly ripe mangoes, pulp only, plus 1 mango, finely diced
4 passion fruit, juice only (reserve seeds for decoration)
40g (1½oz) icing sugar, plus extra to serve
450ml (16fl oz) double cream, plus about
100ml (4fl oz) double cream for assembly
1 bunch of fresh mint, ripped
Sponge fingers (or use shop-bought)
Seeds of ½ vanilla pod
180g (6½oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
150g (5oz) plain flour
dariole moulds Piping bag fitted with a large straight piping nozzle 2m (6½ ft) ribbon (optional)
Oil the dariole moulds and line them with clingfilm, making sure it is hanging over the edges. This makes it easy to take the mousse out once it is set. Put the gelatine in a bowl, completely cover with cold water and set aside. Whiz the mangoes in a blender to a pulp then stir in the passion fruit juice.
Put a sieve over a small pan and pour the pulp into the sieve. Squash as much as the mixture through with a wooden spoon, then add the sugar and stir over a low heat. Discard the pulp left in the sieve.
Heat until the sugar has dissolved and then remove the pan from the heat. Leave to stand for 2 minutes. Take the gelatine leaves from the water –they should be floppy now –and squeeze out all the water, then put them in the hot mango and passion fruit liquid. Leave for 10 seconds then stir well until all the gelatine has dissolved and there are no lumps. Set the fruit mix aside.
Put the 450ml (16fl oz) cream in a large bowl and whip until it begins to thicken. Pour the mango mixture into the cream and fold together gently with a metal spoon. Pour this into a jug (it makes it easier to handle) and divide the mixture among the dariole moulds.
Level the tops with the back of a small spoon and fold the excess clingfilm draped over the sides lightly over the top of the mousse. Put in the fridge for 1–1½ hours to set.
While the mousse is setting, make the sponge fingers –if you are not using ready-made ones. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Oil and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl until they begin to thicken then add the sugar in a steady stream stirring all the time. This will take about 10 minutes with an electric mixer but by hand it will take a lot longer. Add the flour and, using as few stirs as possible, mix the flour in slowly with a metal spoon.
Put the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large straight piping nozzle and pipe about 30–34 sponge fingers onto the prepared baking tray, spaced about 3cm (1¼in) apart. They need to be just longer than the height of the dariole mould. Sprinkle them with some caster sugar and bake in the oven for 5–7 minutes, or until they are spongy to the touch. You might need to bake these in a couple of batches. Remove from the oven and set aside. Once the mousses feel firm to the touch, turn them upside down onto individual serving plates.
Lift off the moulds and then peel off the clingfilm. Stick the sponge fingers around the mousse vertically, close together so there are no gaps. They need to be straight and upright like a sponge finger picket fence. It can be a fiddly job initially and if the sponge fingers are stubbornly refusing to stay stuck to the side of the mousse, whip up the remaining cream, dab a hazelnut-sized amount on the flat side of the finger and use it like glue to stick the fingers on.
Be careful not to put too much cream on otherwise it will squeeze through the gaps and look unsightly. There may be some sponge fingers left over, these can be frozen or served dipped into melted chocolate and some chopped nuts.
Although my cookery lecturer would not approve (she always said, never put anything on the plate which you cannot eat), the prettiest way to present these is by tying them gently with ribbon.
Not only do these look almost too good to eat, but the ribbon has another purpose of holding the sponge fingers securely in place. Put a small dollop on top of each mousse (again to act as edible glue) and then place the chopped mango on top. Finish with ripped up mint leaves.