Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook Clafoutis

Fancy-pants dessert is fitting after a fancy-pants chicken and potatoes dinner.

Per Larousse Gastronomique, clafoutis:
A dessert from the Limousin region of France, consisting of black cherries arranged in a buttered dish and covered with fairly thick pancake batter. It is served lukewarm, dusted with sugar. As a rule, the cherries are not stoned (pitted) but simply washed and stalked (stemmed), since the kernels add their flavour to the batter during cooking. The Academie francaise, who had defined clafoutis as a "sort of fruit flan", were faced with protests from the inhabitants of Limoges, and changed their definition to "cake with black cherries". Nevertheless, there are numerous variations using red cherries or other fruits. The word comes from the provincial dialect word clafir (to fill).
I followed the Les Halles recipe exactly; I think it turned out like it was supposed to since everything went along just like the recipe indicated.

Oh, and I noticed that in this recipe, unlike the potatoes recipe, a tablespoon of butter does weigh 14 g.

from Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook
found here with Americanized measurements
click to print

1 1/2 lb cherries, pitted
75 mL kirsch or kirschwasser
14 g butter
112 g sugar
6 eggs
112 g flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp confectioner's sugar

Place the cherries in a small bowl and toss with the kirsch. Let macerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Grease a 9-inch round baking dish with the butter and coat with a pinch or two of the sugar. Place the pan in the refrigerator.

I like this pie dish. A lot. It's a Pampered Chef dish purchased back in the mid-90's; pie crusts bake in this sucker like nobody's business. The idea of chilling it and then throwing it into a 450°F oven was a little cause for concern. Pampered Chef doesn't even have this listed in their stoneware section anymore (a damn shame)!

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk, then add the sugar and beat well to fully incorporate.

Mix in the flour and the vanilla extract, stirring enough so that all the ingredients are homogenous but without overworking the flour.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the cherries and their accumulated juice into the flour and egg mixture, then pull your prepared baking pan out of the refrigerator and turn the mixture into it.

I had to be really, really, really, really careful inserting this into the oven so as not to slosh the thin batter everywhere. Consider putting the prepared plate on a baking sheet near the oven, then fill it, then be really, really careful slipping the whole thing into the oven.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a golden brown crust has formed on top. A testing skewer inserted into the center should come out clean, not wet.

Done at 33 minutes. So puffy! And the dish held up through major temperature variations like a champ!

Using a small strainer or sifter, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Huh. I really wasn't sure whether the egg mixture was going to bake appropriately to yield a brown crust, but it sure did. Really puffy when it first came out of the oven, it settled a little bit as it cooled. The volume was perfect for the dish I love so much. The clafoutis looked really pretty and I couldn't wait to try it, which contributed to my non-critical assessment of the chicken since I was eyeballing this cake the whole time I ate dinner.

Serving it was a cinch, the first wedge popped right out - the bottom even has sliver of a crust. By the time I got around to eating it, the clafoutis was just room temperature. And eggy. The texture reminded me a little bit of jello, dry yet firm, the crust distinctly like too-cooked egg. Shockingly, the cherries had such an alcoholic flavor, or counter-intuitively an alcoholic content, that my lungs/breath had that "just had a swig of my stiff drink" feeling. Recovering alcoholics, steer clear of this one.

Overall, this didn't turn out to be a favorite for me. A little overwhelming, the drunk cherries were ok (I mean, they're cherries!). The egg action in this was a little too much. And the faint green hue of the "custard" part, was a slightly off-putting reminder of Dr. Seuss.

It might just be that this particular variation of clafoutis doesn't float my boat. I'll have to try the recipe in the Larousse and see how that compares. So, it turns out this entire meal will be repeated next cherry season!

  • cherries: $1.94
  • kirschwasser: $6.46
  • butter: $0.05
  • sugar: $0.18
  • eggs: $1.75
  • flour: $0.17
  • vanilla extract: $0.08
  • confectioner's sugar: $0.02
Total: $10.65. That's $1.78 for each of six, or $1.33 for each of eight, servings.