Sunday, January 27, 2008

“clah-FOOH-tee”

Depending on the chosen thickness of New York accent, I either pronounce it “clah-FOOH-tee” or “claw-FOOW-tee.” I think the second one is much more amusing.

Clafouti is a recipe that Mark Bittman made about two weeks ago on Wednesday’s NYTimes.com “The Minimalist” video cooking segment. He describes it loosely as “fruit held together with pancake batter.”

Pancakes nothing. This cream-heavy batter is miles away from what I think of as suitable for Sunday brunch. For me, it’s more like soft fruit suspended in a crust-less, custard-like pastry. The image shown is not something I made, but it represents the concept pretty well.

His recipe goes a little something like this:

Mark Bittman’s Clafouti
Fruit: The amount depends on what fruit you use. Bittman used clementines in the video segment, but pears, cherries, or apples would be more traditional. Think of the amount as two very large pears or three to four smaller ones.
3 whole eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim, clean, slice or otherwise prepare the fruit. Arrange it prettily in (or dump it into) a greased 10-inch pie plate. In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the eggs, cream, milk, and vanilla. You don’t want to whip the cream, but you do want to beat the eggs fairly well. Add the sugar and mix to dissolve. Add the flour and salt, and stir to combine, but don’t mix until completely smooth. Small lumps are good.

Pour the batter over the fruit. The pie plate will be full of batter to the brim. Carefully set it in the middle of the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden. Undercook for a custard-like texture, or bake longer for cakey results.

The Apple Affair
I made this recipe as it stands using one gigantic apple, peeled, cored, and sliced. I arranged it prettily. I used cooking spray instead of butter to grease the pan, which worked fine. I also had to improvise one little thing: the cream. In England, people will tell you about the two kinds of cream here: single cream and double cream. The initiated will tell you that double cream is just the same as heavy whipping cream and that single cream is more like half-and-half.

Let me assure you that these people are liars.

Double cream is the devil’s cream. It might already be clotted. You may have to work lumps out of it. But fortunately, you can purchase it for about 75 pence in a small 3/4 cup container. In the U.S., I always grit my teeth at having to purchase a half pint, never able to find a smaller size in the dairy case. But in London, you can find both single and double cream at every little grocery store and off-license market around.

Before I go on forever about cream, here’s my last word on the subject: For anyone else in the U.K., using single cream would be thoroughly sufficient.

Because my pie plate is on the smaller side (my guess is it’s closer to 8 inches), I had about a quarter to a half cup of left over batter, which I poured into a small fry pan and popped into the oven for 25 minutes to make a little puffy crepe.

Sadly, this clafouti was a gift for a girl who was celebrating her birthday at a pub that night, and unfortunately, we didn’t get around to opening it up and sharing it with everyone.

Cheerier With Cherries
So the next day, I decided to give it another go and make a second clafouti. My goal was to lighten the recipe to be less fatty and also make just enough batter to fit my smaller pie plate. Here’s what I came up with:

Lightened Cherry Clafouti
About 1 1/4 cups frozen black cherries (that’s all I had on hand; I would have used about 3 cups if I could have)
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
a scant 1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt


The purpose of the egg yolks was to make up for the lack of cream and add to the custard-like texture. Although this clafouti came out absolutely delicious, it was much flatter than the first one, partly due to the smaller amount of fruit taking up space, but also because of the lack of egg whites, I think.

Using half as much sugar worked well, too, especially because the cherries were sweet and juicy.

If I were to tinker with this recipe one more time, I’d up the amount of fruit, stick to 3 whole eggs, keep the sugar at 1/4 cup, and maybe even divide the milk into 1/2 cup skim milk plus 3/4 cup whole milk. For me, the dessert’s heart and soul is the fruit, so the richness of the surrounding pastry isn’t all that important.

1 comment:

Jill E. Duffy said...

I've been making the clafouti a few times a year to this day, most recently with gorgeous New Jersey peaches. Use slightly under ripe peaches so they hold their shape, and peel the skins using a sharp vegetable peeler. Peaches and cherries have been my favorite versions of clafouti so far.

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