Mar 30, 2012

Clafouti-- A fancy French dessert without butter and fuss

A fancy dessert, even a French one, does not always have to be time consuming and calorie enhancing. Clafouti (pronounced cla-foo-tee) is one example.

Clafoutis are French in origin and is a cross (yes, a cross almost) between custard and cake, that is made with summer fruits. As Mark Bittman very nicely describes, 'Clafoutis are essentially pancake wrapped around fruits' or words to that effect. The obvious and really classic choice of fruit for a Clafouti is Cherry, which gives you the classical Cherry Clafouti. But Clementines, Grapes, Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries --all of them work wonderfully with Clafoutis. It is really like a fruit custard. Only its not.

In fact the a story goes like this. In France they had to call upon a judge to decide whether clafoutis should be in the 'custard' section or the 'cake section' of a cookbook. A French cookbook that is :) After much debate, involving lawyers, judges, cooks, chefs all of them, apparently the cake people won the case. So now you find Clafoutis, at least in French cookbooks, listed under the cake section. This was a story that I read in Dorrie Greenspan's book 'Around my French table'. A wonderful humorous read, excellent recipes and I would say, if you are into or interested in or intimidated by French cooking, you pretty much need this book.

Coming back to Clafoutis, these are incredibly fast to put together and very imprecise, considering its French origin :) Very figure friendly too. You don't have to use butter if you don't want to. I mean if you use a parchment paper to line the cake pan (I don't even do that-yes I am that lazy), you can pretty much forgo butter. As I said, you can feel good about eating this. But what I really love about clafoutis is that it is so versatile. Depending on your milk-to-cream ratio and baking time, you can have a range of textures-- from more custard-y to more cake-y.  And the fruits just pretty much define your Clafouti; blending in perfectly with the batter, each type of fruit imparts an unique flavor to clafoutis. Finally, the dessert, although fancy, is in essence a very rustic one too. In fact, in the French countryside, where this dessert had its origin, whole cherries are used. Whole cherries gives a whole lot of texture and flavor to the clafouti and you don't need to go through the trouble of taking out the cores (which is a very tedious job). You just spit out the cores in a bowl while enjoying your Clafouti. Such bowls are a common summer time feature on French table. I am told so.

So Clafoutis are really an ingenuous dessert that only the French could come up with. You got to give it to them :)

I have been making clafoutis over a couple of years, at least. And I have gone through the entire spectrum of textures and fruits and its now almost my go-to dessert just as soon as berries hit the stands. It has always been a very pleasing dessert to anyone I have presented it to. So take a hit with it. And you know very soon you will find yourself trying a lot these French fancy desserts. Frankly they really don't need that much of reverence :)

Today, I give you two recipes. One is the classical Whole Cherry Clafouti  by Dorrie Greenspan (Around my French Table) and the other is less classical but equally delightful, Clementine Clafouti by Mark Bittman.

Whole Cherry Clafouti by Dorrie Greenspan (Around my French table)
(The above photo is of a whole cherry Clafouti I made using this recipe last summer)

1 lb (450 g) sweet cherries, stemmed but not pitted
3 large eggs
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
Pinch of fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of heavy cream
(You can use just light cream instead of milk+cream)
Icing sugar/confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Ensure that your oven rack is centered in the oven.

  • Place a parchment paper on the 9 inch baking tray. 
  • Place the washed and dried cherries into the prepared baking dish in a single layer.
  • In a medium bowl whisk the 3 eggs until they are light and frothy. Add in the sugar and beat with a whisk for a minute or so until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the pinch of salt and the vanilla and whisk well. Add in the flour and beat the mixture vigorously until the flour is well incorporated and smooth.Gentle please
  • Gradually pour in the milk and cream and whisk until well incorporated. Rap the bowl against the counter to release any air bubbles and then pour the batter over the cherries in the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until the clafoutis is puffed up and golden brown and when a sharp knife blade inserted into the center of the clafoutis comes out clean. If you hit a cherry, try again!
  • Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow the clafoutis to cool to room temperature. When you are ready to serve, dust the clafoutis with icing sugar--optional

Clementine Clafoutis by Mark Bittman

Time: About 1 hour

1/2 cup flour, more for dusting pan
3 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
(You can use just light cream instead of milk+cream)
5 to 15 clementines, peeled and sectioned, about 3 cups
Powdered sugar.

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a gratin dish, about 9 by 5 by 2 inches, or a 10-inch round deep pie plate or porcelain dish, by smearing it with butter, just a teaspoon or so. Dust it with flour, rotating pan so flour sticks to all the butter; invert dish to get rid of excess.
  • In a large bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add granulated sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Add cream and milk and whisk until smooth. Add 1/2 cup flour and stir just to combine.
  •  Layer or lump clementine sections in dish; they should come just about to the top. Pour batter over fruit to as close to top of dish as you dare; you may have a little leftover batter, depending on size of your dish. 
  • Bake for about 40 minutes, or until clafoutis is nicely browned on top and a knife inserted into it comes out clean. Sift some powdered sugar over it and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Bittman and Greenspan both suggest that Clafoutis does not keep; serve within a couple of hours of making it. But I have eaten it over a couple (maybe even 3 days). Does not exactly taste great..but you can do it :)

Happy eating and healthy eating..even if its a dessert and that too a French dessert :)


The Japanese Redneck said...

I've made them before and really like em.

Ansh said...

Looks wonderful. I have clementines to finish up... looks like i will be making this.