Make the filling:
Tip:These can be completely prepared a day ahead, covered (still in the molds) with plastic, and refrigerated. To reheat, let them sit at room temperature while you heat the oven to 350°F. Bake until hot, about 12 minutes, and unmold.
Peel, core, and dice the apples into 1/4-inch pieces (you’ll have about 6-1/2 cups). Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off half the lemon in long strips, taking care to avoid the bitter white pith (if necessary, remove any pith from the zest strips by scraping it off with a knife). Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife. In a large bowl, toss the apples, lemon zest, vanilla bean seeds and spent pod, raisins, and golden raisins.
In a 12-inch skillet or 5-quart Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat and then add the sugar. When the sugar is fully moistened, add the apple mixture and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the apples start to release liquid and look soft on the outside (they’ll still be a little crunchy inside), about 7 min. (you want to just start the cooking process at this point while still leaving the apples crunchy). Set the apple mixture aside to cool slightly and then add the Calvados.
Prepare the crust:
Position a rack in the middle of the oven; heat the oven to 475°F. Trim the bread crusts. Cut eight rounds to fit the bottoms of eight 8-ounce ramekins. Cut enough rectangles to line the sides. (The bread should come to within at least 3/4 inch of the ramekin’s rim, if not the top.) Melt the butter in a medium skillet and put the sugar in a shallow dish. Brush the insides of the ramekins with butter. Generously dip both sides of each piece of bread in butter followed by sugar on one side. Lay one round in each ramekin, sugared side down. Nestle the rectangles, sugared side facing outward toward the ramekin, so they line the sides of each one.
Trace around the ramekin bottom with a paring knife to cut a round of bread to line each ramekin.
Strips of bread line the sides. They needn't come all the way to the top, but they should be close to the rim.
Assemble and bake:
Pick the lemon zest and vanilla bean halves out of the apple filling and fill each ramekin, pressing on the filling to get rid of air pockets. Be generous; the filling will cook down. Set the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet (leaving a few inches between each) and cover snugly with one sheet of foil. Bake for 40 min. To see if the charlottes are done, run a paring knife around the side, knock on the ramekin bottom, and invert a ramekin onto a plate to check the bottom; it should be nicely caramelized, and will have caramelized more than the sides. (If they’re not done yet, return them to the oven for a few more minutes). Unmold and serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
Add the apple mixture to the bread-lined ramekins, packing it firmly.
Make Ahead Tips
Apple Charlottes can be completely prepared a day ahead, covered (still in the molds) with plastic, and refrigerated. To reheat, let them sit at room temperature while you heat the oven to 350°F. Bake until hot, about 12 min., and unmold.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on eight servings without garnish;
Photo: Scott Phillips