Jan 14, 2011

Confounded by Clafoutis

Are you sure you know what Clafoutis (or as Ina Garten says "clafouti") is? Well, it is best described as a cross between a custard and a cake. There are so many variations of clafoutis, some more cake-like, others more like a custard. This version is definitely most like a custard. Why confounded, you ask? Well, we based it loosely on Ina Garten's Pear Clafouti recipe, and judging from her picture and ours there was something very different between our final products. Nonetheless, the Pear Clafoutis we are sharing with you is a gourmet looking and tasting dessert...we both loved it, even after all the confusion and modifications.

Caitlin: A few years ago I made an apricot clafoutis, adapted from an Emerill recipe. It was light, fluffy and had more of a cake-like texture - apparently, this was not what a "traditional" clafoutis  tastes like - it should be more of a firmer custard, or the middle ground between custard, souffle and cake. So, when we decided to try a pear clafoutis, I think we were expecting something a little different. 
Monica made hers first and when she gave an update I could detect a tone of frustration - and talking to her later confirmed it: she was  mad at the clafoutis, or rather mad at the recipe. It was bland, too custard-like and not  cakey enough. So - we needed to act fast. 
Classically trained and 5 star chefs, we are not - however, we know how to change something up to add flavor. One of the great things about cooking with a friend is that when we try newer recipes, the first person is usually the guinea pig (in this case it was Monica) - we talk about what the dish lacked and what can make it better, we make those changes, try it again and have a great recipe. This was absolutely one of those times. The original recipe lacked sweetness, from the pears and custard, so we added a little more cinnamon and sugar for flavor, caramelized the pears before cooking it, and voila! we had a tasty clafoutis. 
Caitlin's Version with Creme Fraiche
Monica: Ok, so I decided to make the dessert first and the directions seemed easy enough. However, I came to realize that I needed to change it up a bit in order for it to be a more luscious dessert. I still realized after I added a few things to the original recipe, it could've been even better with still more modifications. After discussing what I felt the recipe lacked, Caitlin and I collaborated and she added some delicious elements to her pear mixture in order to make the flavors pop! Don't get me wrong, the version I made was still quite delicious, but being able to talk it through with Caitlin, what she ultimately made is an even better version than the original. I decided to serve my clafoutis with a homemade vanilla whipped cream (I think it needs to be served with a sauce or cream) and it was perfect to enjoy with a cup of tea. One more tip, I really think the recipe could've been a tad bit sweeter, so I would add some sweetened condensed milk to the egg mixture, like Eagle brand milk the next time I make this.
Monica's version with Vanilla Whipped Cream
Ingredient List 
*For cooking the pears:
2 tbsp butter
2-3 firm but ripe pears - peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tbsp sugar 
tsp cinnamon
dash of vanilla extract
*For the custard:
1/3 cup sugar
3 extra large eggs
6 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp brandy (you can leave the brandy out, but use extra dash of vanilla extract and a dash more sugar)
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 375.

Butter a round baking dish and sprinkle a tsp sugar over it.

In a large saute pan, heat the butter until it's browned. Add the pears, sugar, cinnamon and a dash of vanilla. Cook the pears until soft, turn off the heat and set aside.

Start the custard: in a large bowl beat the eggs and 1/3 cup of sugar on high for about  3 minutes, until fluffy. On a lower speed add the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and brandy (if using). Set aside for a few minutes to settle.

In the meantime, arrange the pears in the baking dish. We both fanned them out around the dish and then again in the middle where there was an empty space. But you can get creative and arrange them any way you want, as long as there is really only 1 layer on the bottom. 
Take the sauce that was created from cooking the pears and the sugar, and drizzle it over the pears in the baking dish. Pour the custard batter over the pears, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the custard is firm. You can test this by slightly jiggling the dish, if it's still really jiggly, then it's not quite done - put it in for another 5 minutes and check again. Take the dish out and let it sit for a few minutes. 
Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle some confectioners sugar over the top. you can serve it with a dollop of creme fraiche, spiced cream, or vanilla ice cream.
You could add some more flour to the mix to make it cake-like; maybe cake flour would work best. 

Get creative...once summer rolls around use cherries or other stone-fruit like apricots. 

Serve with vanilla ice cream instead of whipped cream or make a spiced cream sauce. 

Caitlin: After talking to Monica, I was a little nervous about making this. What if it sucked?! I wanted to listen something relaxing and mellow so I could concentrate and get it right. Broken Bells was exactly what I needed. James Mercer's light voice and Danger Mouse's musical genius provided the perfect backdrop. If you haven't heard the album yet, please do yourself a favor and check it out HERE - I understand they're collaborating again on a second album; if we're lucky it'll be anything like the first. Here's the video for a song called The High Road - check it out.

Monica: After the recipe not turning out exactly how I anticipated (although still good), I wanted to sit back and relax.  These songs were perfect to listen to while I enjoyed the clafoutis:
1)  Round Midnight - John Coltrane
2)  I Got It Bad (and Ain't the Good) - Duke Ellington
3)  Feeling Good - Nina Simone
4)  Baby It's You - The Beatles
5)  Tangled Up in Blue - Bob Dylan

Drink of Choice 
Caitlin: Tea.
Monica: I drank a nice hot cup of pomegranate-blueberry herbal tea with a touch of honey.

A Recipe to Remember?
Yes!  Even after the stress and altering the recipe, we are both quite excited to get more creative with clafoutis the next time around.

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