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Dec 28, 2013 03:24 PM

Need some help with Charlotte Russe (it separates sometimes)

I'm having guests for NYE and making my family's favorite NYE dessert, Charlotte Russe. Sometimes it separates, though, so I thought I'd ask here what I'm doing wrong. The recipe is from an Austrian great aunt.

The recipe:
1T unflavored gelatin
1/4c cold water
2 eggs, separated
2/3 c powdered sugar
2/3 c scalded milk
1t vanilla
2c whipping cream

Soak gelatin in water.
Beat egg yolks with sugar, pour milk over. Stir in gelatin and mix
Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in.
Set in fidge till it begins to set -- about 7-8 minutes [here is where it separates].
Whip cream, add vanilla and fold into egg mixture.
Pour into ladyfinger-lined souffle dish.

Any hints on keeping it from separating?
Thanks for any help.

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  1. It separates while chilling or as you fold in the cream? If it separates as you fold in the cream, you may be whipping your cream too stiffly. If you whip it just until soft peaks form, you have more leeway with folding it in. If you try to fold in stiffly whipped cream, the additional action of folding can over-whip it and cause it to separate & start turning to butter. Plus, softly whipped cream has more volume than stiff and will give you a lighter mousse.

    2 Replies
    1. re: babette feasts

      Thanks. It separates in the fridge. I may indeed be whipping the egg whites too stiffly and will try whipping them less. I'd guess the over-whipping squeezes the proteins too tightly and doesn't let other liquids in.

      The way it separates is the egg white separates out and floats on the yolk mixture.

      1. re: travelerjjm

        Maybe chill the yolk mixture until that starts to set by itself, then fold the whites in. Is the yolk mix really liquid? You usually want whatever you're folding together to be of similar consistency.

    2. There is this
      I think the filling is Bavarian Cream, so maybe a pastry site, or a Julia Child sort of cookbook would explain the not-so-modern technique.

      1. Interesting. I have a recipe from Paul Bocuse for Charlotte Russe, and his instructions spend more time on making the lady-fingers for the lining than on the creme anglaise that is the filling (and really that is all the filling is - cream or custard). what is interesting about your recipe is there is no cooking. If you aren't cooking the cream in a custard, I don't think the eggs add anything. Yolks will thicken a custard, but they must be cooked, AFAIK.

        In the Time Life Good Cook volume "Classic Desserts" there are four recipes for Charlotte. Two recipes make creme anglaise or a pouring custard ( cooked and including egg yolk) and two make the charlotte with flavored cream whipped with gelatin for stabilizing, but no egg yolks and no egg whites. By the way, Bocuse's recipe does also include gelatin, FWIW, but no egg whites. None of the four recipes include both whipped cream and whipped egg whites. That is highly unusual. Maybe that's what makes your recipe different.

        Conclusion: your recipe is missing a step, or has too many ingredients (cook the egg yolks, or omit them completely). The missing step is at the start: scald the milk. Beat egg yolks and sugar together with a wooden spoon until frothy, then slowly add the milk to the egg mixture. Pour the egg-milk-sguar mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring all the while, until the mixture coats the spoon. Remove from heat at this point and add the gelatin. Cool, and as soon as it starts to set fold in whipped cream and pour into lady-finger-lined mold.

        3 Replies
        1. re: janniecooks

          First, thanks for all the research and comparisons!
          This recipe works most of the time and is delicious. I'm not sure of the origins. When I was looking for recipes on the web I found this: so it isn't too odd. We love the taste and I want to be more consistent.

          1. re: travelerjjm

            hmmm....perhaps the com recipe was shared by a long lost cousin of the same Austrian auntie? Nonetheless, uncooked egg yolks, uncooked egg whites, whipped cream, all combined is not something I've seen.

            Your recipe and request piqued my curiosity, so I did further research. Charlotte Russe is a traditional dish, so I looked it up in my Larousse Grastronomique and in my volume of Curnonsky's Traditional French Cooking. Both volumes have several variations on Charlotte Russe, and all are merely lady-finger lined molds (there is a traditional shape, of course!), filled with bavarian cream. Bavarian cream is always cooked - it is an egg-thickened (cooked) custard lightened with whipped cream after cooking and cooling.

            You've obviously eaten the dish you described before, so I hope you figure it out. (Please also be sure to use pasteurized eggs to avoid the risk of salmonella from raw eggs.) Enjoy!

          2. re: janniecooks

            +1 The recipe seems to be missing the step as janniecooks mentioned above.

          3. Here is an 18th century recipe that sounds a lot like yours as far as ingredients, with the exception that they use "isinglass" as gelatin (a sheet gelatin). The original Charlotte Russe desserts were not made the "easy way" with lady fingers standing on end to line the outside of a souffle dish used as a mold, but as you'll see in this recipe, the entire mold was lined with "cake" and then turned out. Sometimes, a bit later than this recipe, pinwheel cakes were used, which made a very pretty pattern when the russe was eventually turned out of the mold.

            So it sounds like your recipe was written at a time, or by someone copying it, when it was assumed anyone would already know you had to cook the creme Anglais.

            It's the things we assume everyone knows about and don't write down that leave great puzzles for the future!

            Finally! Here's the URL:

            1. After reading all the comments and a bunch of other recipes, what I did was to make sure the milk was very warm when I added it into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. I did it very slowly so as not to cook the yolks. Then I added the gelatin and it melted wonderully. No separation and it tasted fantastic. Thanks for all the help!