Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fantabulous Food! Clafoutis (Cherry Flan)

I had a few packages of cherries from a sale at Publix a while back and I wanted to use them before they went bad. I had just been eating them, but it was a lot of cherries, so I started looking through my cookbooks to find cherry recipes. There are not many, let me tell you. Finally I came across this one in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 and it sounded intriguing so I decided to give it a try. I'm very glad I did :)

Clafoutis by Julia Child:
3 cups pitted cherries
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour, scooped and leveled
1/3 cup sugar (additional)
powdered sugar for dusting

1. First, you will need to pit your cherries. I found a great tutorial on how to do this quickly on Our Best Bites, but it calls for a drinking straw or a chopstick and I didn't have either. So, I developed my own system and it worked pretty well. First you need to take the stem off the cherry,
then using a sharp knife, I pressed in the center until I felt the pit and then rotated the knife around the pit, making a slit around the whole cherry.
Then I peeled the flesh off one side with my hands
and slide my finger nail around the pit to pull it out. This really went very fast, but I forgot that cherries stain things. I didn't notice at all until I was finished, but it is really obvious in the pictures just how stained my hands were. And these were ranier cherries... with light flesh and skins. Who knew?
After (and while) I pit the cherries, I noticed they were browning like apples (again... who knew?), so I would periodically sprinkle lemon juice on them and mix it around. Then I covered my bowl with plastic wrap and kept them in the fridge until I was ready to put them in.
2. Preheat oven to 350º F. Now, the recipe in the book calls for an electric blender, but I was afraid it would make more liquid than my blender could handle, so I made mine in my stand mixer. It still came out fine, but after I mixed the batter I realized it would have worked just fine in the blender too. It's your call. The recipe specifies that each ingredient should be put in in the order they are listed and allow each to blend well before adding the next. So, first we have the milk
then eggs
vanilla extract
and a very level half cup of flour.
Once all the ingredients are in, cover and blend on highest speed for 1 minute.
3. Pour a 1/4 inch thick layer of the batter in a baking dish that is at least 1.5 inches deep.
The recipe says to put it on the stove, but I couldn't do that in this pan, so I just put it in the oven while it preheated and it seemed to work very well. Just leave it in there until there is a film of batter at the bottom of the pan.
This picture shows the film that stays behind when I tilt the pan. You don't want all of that batter to be firm, just a thin film like this.
4. Spread cherries over the batter
even them out and sprinkle with sugar extra 1/3 cup of sugar.
5. Pour the batter over the cherries
and make sure it is spread evenly over the pan.
6. Bake for about 1 hour.
I was really surprised with how much the batter rose while baking.

It is done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.Et Voilà!
Let it cool a little bit, but it should still be warm when it is served. Julia says to sprinkle it with a little powdered sugar just before serving it. Also, it will shrink down as it cools.
So there you have the French version of flan :) And it really was very good, I have to say. It's not quite as custardy as flan, but not as grainy as bread pudding. It was a nice in between type of texture and my husband loved it! The cherry version is the traditional French style and is just referred to as clafoutis, but you can use pretty much any other fruit you would like, then it is called clafoutis aux ______ (insert French name of other fruit here, ex. poivres - pears). Also, the traditional recipe calls for black cherries, but I had already purchased these raniers and they were really good. I bet the black cherries will have a stronger flavor, which would be really tasty :)
All in all, I was really pleased with this recipe. It was so easy it didn't feel like I was making French food and all of the ingredients are things I already have in my pantry at any given time - except for the cherries. I'm excited to try it with other fruits next time. So if you want a very classic French recipe - so much so that I had no idea what it was and I have studied French language and culture for 13 years and majored in it in college - this is a great one to try. It's incredibly easy and oh, so tasty :)

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