Saturday, January 30, 2010

finally, a dessert recipe: clafoutis

In the minimalistic spirit of many other recipes on this blog, I bring you clafoutis - easily one of my favorite desserts of all time (and the first dessert recipe on HOUSEKEPT). There are only about five ingredients, all of which you should have on hand, so make it this weekend. I had the distinct pleasure of eating copious amounts of this pudding-like dish while studying in Pau, France. My host mother was from Limousin, a rustic region of France known for cherries, porcelain, and beef. At the time I was completely unaware of this wondrous dessert; that is, until my host mother prepared two of these in late spring when cherries are in season. Essentially a baked custard-like cake, clafoutis tastes a lot like a very thick crepe mixed with fresh cherries.

Clafoutis embodies what a rustic, homemade dessert should be - the effortless combination of a few pantry staples (sugar, eggs, and flour) and ripe, seasonal fruit. Because you mix the fruit into the batter, almost any fruit will work well. Countless cookbooks contain variations on the classic cherry version, but the most common other fruits would be berries, stone fruit (peaches, nectarines), or pears. The traditional recipe calls for kirsch, a cherry-based spirit, but you could also use cognac, armagnac, bourbon, or some other digestif-type booze. Now for the recipe...

After making clafoutis from quite a few different recipes, I think Anthony Bourdain came the closest to what I ate in France (though I really should ask my host mother) in Les Halles, his manifesto of a cookbook. As a stickler, he uses weight instead of volume for the dry ingredients, but you should be able to convert these quite easily. I made it with pears recently, but the same recipe works well for a number of different fruits.


Ingredients
  • 1.5 lbs cherries or other fruit
  • 3 ounces booze (kirsch, cognac, etc.)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 oz flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp confectioners' sugar
Technique
  1. Place the cherries in a bowl and toss with the kirsch. Let macerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a 9-10 inch baking dish with the butter and coat with a pinch or two of the sugar. Place the dish in the refrigerator.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk, then add the sugar and beat well to fully incorporate.
  4. Mix in the flour and the vanilla, stirring enough so that all the ingredients are homogenous but without overworking the flour.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cherries and their accumulated juice into the flour and egg mixture, then pull your dish out of the fridge and turn the mixture into it. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until a golden brown crust has formed on top. Also, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean - no wet.
  6. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.

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