Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

I know what you’re thinking.

How did it get to be nearly June already? How has this year been simultaneously so fast and so slow?

Oh, you weren’t thinking that? Maybe it’s…just me??

So, maybe you were wondering what in the lord’s name a “clafoutis” is. Y’know, until a few days ago, I didn’t know what on earth it could be either. It sounded French and according to the internet, it is made of a few simple ingredients. I decided to give it the ol’ college try. If you’ve ever made and/or enjoyed a dutch baby, chances are you will probably enjoy a clafoutis. If you did a DNA test, I’m sure it would tell you they are siblings; or, at the very least, first cousins. And tasty too!

What’s a Clafoutis and How Do I Pronounce It?

According to the dictionary, a clafoutis (klah-foo-TEE) is a tart made of fruit baked into a sweet batter. A traditional version of this is made with cherries, so stone fruits are a natural choice. The spongey batter is higher in eggs and milk than it is in flour, which makes for a springy forkful. What’s not to love about this simple confection?

Tell Me More…

So, your typical cherry clafoutis as it would be made in France (after all, it IS a French word) would be served warm and dusted with powdered sugar. Fun fact: the French traditionally leave the pits in the cherries to impart an almond character to the sponge. (If you, like me, feel that you already spend enough time and money at the dentists’ office, adding a kiss of almond extract is a safe substitute for the pits.)

Originally from Limousin, France, “clafoutis” comes from the root “clafir,” meaning “to fill.” Thus, it is a baked dessert “filled” with fruit. However, while the simple nature of the recipe makes for easy substitutions, the French have dubbed any version containing a fruit other than cherries a “flaugnarde.” Being a little more–erm–progressive, I personally am willing to call this plum version a clafoutis. One can only keep so many French words in ones head, after all.

Not All of Us Live in South Carolina…

If I am going to tout myself as a seasonally-minded blogger and eater, I have to address the fact that the plums I found at the farmer’s market are not available everywhere in the U.S. Strictly speaking, it is a little early for plums. The good news? Strawberries are starting to emerge, and rhubarb has been in full force for some time now. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t make yourself a strawberry rhubarb clafoutis, and enjoy every minute of it. (If using strawberry rhubarb, replace vanilla bean with 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.)

However You “Clafoutis,” Here’s How It Goes:

Assemble your ingredients. Chop your plums into chunks, macerate in sugar. Scrape vanilla bean into milk, and throw the pod in with the plums to hang out and impart flavor.

Whip up your batter and arrange plums in the bottom of a cast iron or oven-safe pan; no need to go overboard arranging your fruit. Chances are, the batter will cause the plums to float off the bottom of the pan.

Before pic, featuring floating plum wedges and aromatic batter. Make sure not to overbake your clafoutis to prevent it from becoming rubbery. This recipe calls for a high egg/milk: flour ratio, which should further prevent a rubbery dessert. If, however, you encounter a clafoutis quandary, consider adding another egg and/or more milk in the future.

After! Feel free to dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Or, add a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or full-fat yogurt and enjoy!

This dessert is light, so feel free to dish yourself a hearty slice.

Serves 8 people, keeps in the fridge up to four days, and reheats well. Who’s ready for summer?!

Vanilla and Plum Clafoutis

Fruit studs a custardy sponge in this simple and rustic dessert. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or with a dusting of powdered sugar!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine French, Intuitive, Seasonal
Servings 8 people

Ingredients
  

  • butter, for buttering the cast iron or oven-safe dish
  • 6 plums (mine were small so I used 7)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped (alternatively, use 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • confectioner's sugar (optional)
  • vanilla ice cream or yogurt (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter baking dish and set aside.
  • Remove pits from plums and cut into thin slices. Place in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla bean husk and toss. Set aside, allowing the fruit to macerate at least 10 minutes.
  • In another medium bowl, whisk sugar, flour, and salt. Add eggs, milk, vanilla bean seeds and whisk until a smooth batter forms.
  • Arrange macerated plums in the bottom of your baking dish. (You can add the vanilla bean husk if you want, but keep in mind you will have to remove it after it bakes as it is inedible.) Pour batter into the skillet and place on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake until set, between an hour and an hour and 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and puffy.
  • Allow to cool before slicing into wedges. Dust with powdered sugar and/or add a dollop of ice cream or vanilla yogurt and serve immediately. May be frozen up to one week, and keeps well up to four days in the fridge.
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Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

This week, pie is all over the social media feeds.

“To bake, or not to bake” seems to be a pertinent question this year–and for those who are paring down on the festivities, this question comes into even more glaring focus. I’ve seen suggestions for hand pies, or lemon bars, as supplicant solutions to the pie dilemma. While these tasty baked treats would be a welcome addition to any day of the year, they don’t exactly scream “special occasion.”

Enter an alternative to the alternatives: tart.

And not just any tart, mind you–this is Julia Child’s pear tart we are talking about. With three distinct steps, a few hours of work, and a decorative topping as ornate as one has the patience to craft, this tart can be a real showstopper, and tastes amazing.

Musky, nutty, creamy, and sweet: one forkful and you might even forget it’s the weirdest holiday season ever.

This recipe is a good exercise in some traditional culinary skills, and presents a good challenge to continue ones quarantined gastronomic exploits. If you’ve never tried a Julia Child recipe before, this is a great one to start with! So make it, and impress your loved ones. Or better yet, rope them into the process too. There are plenty of opportunities to sneak sweet bites in between steps…

To begin with, I made the sugar crust and let it chill for an hour. As it firmed up in the fridge, I made the almond paste.

frangipane ingredients

Julia instructs us to beat the eggs and sugar until very pale yellow and forming ribbons, about to this stage:

as you can see i beat this by hand, but feel free to use and electric or stand mixer if that’s what makes you happy : )

(I did deviate slightly from her directions as I added a pinch of salt to the mix as well, but this is a matter of personal preference.)

As the frangipane cooled, I pealed, stemmed, and cored the pears, then simmered in wine, lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar for 8 minutes.

before
after. i used quince jelly because i had it, but the original recipe calls for red currant.

By this stage, the dough is ready to be rolled out and baked, and the tart assembled. Traditionally, the pears are cut in thin slices widthwise and laid in a circular tart in concentric circles, maintaining the suggestion of their original pear shape. Since this year has been anything but traditional, I decided to mix things up a bit and change the shape from a circle to a rectangle, and lay the slices in a different pattern. My goal was to achieve a more even distribution of pear, so that every slice is guaranteed a generous portion of fruit.

are you enticed yet? : )

Julia Child’s Poached Pear Tart

Prep Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine French, traditional

Ingredients
  

Sugar Crust

  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 Tbs granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 7 Tbs chilled butter
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Frangipane

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Poached Pears

  • 6 pears, ripe but still firm
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly (or other preserves with mild flavor)

Instructions
 

Sugar Crust

  • Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or food processor until it resembles small, uniform crumbs. Add egg and vanilla until combined, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Transfer dough to the tart pan, crimping or pressing the edges with a fork if desired.
  • Line tart with foil and fill with pie weights, or dried beans or rice. Bake 9-10 minutes, or until pastry is set and the top of the crust has begun to change from shiny in appearance to matte. Bake 7-10 minutes more, or until crust is lightly browned and cooked all the way through. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Frangipane

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, taking care not to burn them. Blend in a food processor or blender until they are pulverized into small, homogenous chunks.
  • Whisk egg and egg yolk in a large mixing bowl until combined, then gradually add sugar, whisking as you do so. Mixture should grow paler and paler yellow, and grow shiny after about 3 minutes. Thin ribbons should form from the end of your whisk or electric beater when held about a foot above the bowl, about five minutes. Add flour and combine.
  • Heat milk in a medium saucepan on the stove until simmering. Add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture, and whisk to temper the milk into the eggs. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you do so. (Do not rush this process or you might end up with scrambled eggs!)
  • Place milk and egg mixture back in the saucepan over medium heat, whisking continuously 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pulverized almonds, vanilla and almond extracts, and butter. Let cool completely, covering custard with buttered parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming.

Poached Pears

  • Bring wine, lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
  • Peel, stem, and core the pears. Drop pears into the boiling wine and cook 8-10 minutes, until stained and seasoned, but still firm enough to retain their shape. Turn off the heat and let the pears steep for 20 minutes in the liquid, then place pears on a wire rack to drain.
  • Place the wine solution over high heat until it is at 230°F, then add jelly. Once the preserves have dissolved and the mixture coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and let cool.

Tart Assembly

  • Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with the reduced wine/jelly mixture. Fill shell with frangipane, and smooth with a spatula. Cut pears into 1/4 inch thick slices and arrange atop the frangipane. If desired, brush pears with more jelly mixture. Chill before serving.
  • Keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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