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Clafoutis (Cla-foo-tee–sing. & pl. spelled and pronounced the same) is a classic French dessert that really perks up a winter meal. A hybrid of baked fruit custard and pudding cake, it’s easier to make than either, requiring only one bowl and needing no scalded milk or strained batter to prepare. Originally a country dish, it loves parties, even formal ones, as well as family meals, and depending on the setting, can be served hot, room temperature or chilled.

Nutritious and lighter than pastry, Clafoutis is great for those still recovering from the holidays or trying to eat less in the new year and the perfect end to a hearty winter meal. If you haven’t tried one before, the dish can put some “spring” in your winter menus and a smile on the faces of your family.

Although developed to showcase the fresh cherries of the Limousin region, as Clafoutis’ popularity spread, it was learned that cherries in their skin were fine, but most larger cut fruits released too much juice for the custard to set, so cooked fruit was substituted. Nowadays, the nicest thing about Clafoutis, at least for a cook in winter, is that they can use canned, fruit. Very few desserts, suitable for entertaining, can say that!

Another great feature of Clafoutis is that the same simple batter recipe is used for all varieties, only the fruit is changed, with, optionally, a few minor flavorings added to them first. In fact, very little can be done to spoil this dish, other than burning it. So it’s a novice cook’s dream and as a bonus, it smells delicious too, especially as it bakes, really boosting the confidence.

I first made Clafoutis on a cold, grey January afternoon. Soon after putting it in the oven, some PTA friends drove up with a load of material I’d agreed to store for a school project. I helped them move the boxes onto the garage, then offered coffee. Entering the house, we were greeted by the most heavenly aroma, everyone just stopped and inhaled!

So read on and learn how simple it is to make Clafoutis. Then give it a try and see how wonderful one smells while it’s cooking and finally, how delicious this dessert tastes.

RECIPES: The recipe format is different this week, because, as mentioned above, the variety of Clafoutis is decided by the choice and treatment of the fruit, not alterations to the batter or ‘master recipe’. In fact, this dish is an oddity. French chefs like to put their fingerprint on their version of a classic recipe, but having checked several books by prominent chefs, several by newer ‘ Bistro chefs’, a translation of an antique classic and one from Le Cordon Bleu, I found this recipe surprisingly unchanged. The only differences were suggestions to substitute heavy cream or half-and-half for part of the milk. I’m going to rely, chiefly on Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, but include the other suggestions in parentheses.

Clafoutis-Master Recipe: Serves 6-8
1) Have ready a greased ovenproof container equal in capacity to a 9 inch round cake pan. For a larger quantity double the size of the pan or use 2 pans.
2) Preheat oven to 350 deg.
3) You will need 3 cups, or 1 ¼ -1 ½ lb. fresh, prepared fruit, pitted and/or cored, peeled and sliced if large or equal amount of canned, well drained.
4) NOTE-Store leftovers chilled—if you have any

1 ¼ cups milk (or ¾-1 cup milk and ¼-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half)
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sifted flour
1/3 cup sugar
Powdered sugar to sprinkle as garnish
If using a blender, add first 6 ingredients in order listed and blend 1 min. at top speed. If using a mixer, beat the eggs first, then add the solids and finally the liquid. Beat until smooth.
Pour about ¼ of the batter into the pan and bake 3-5 min. until set. Arrange fruit on top of the baked batter, sprinkle with the extra 1/3 cup sugar, and pour the rest of the batter over all. Bake in the center of the oven for about an hour, until puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Garnish with sprinkled powdered sugar just before serving.
The Clafoutis will fall a bit as it cools and is best served warm.

Cherry Clafoutis
Fresh pitted cherries or canned, drained Bing cherries.
¼ cup kirsch or cognac
1/3 cup sugar
Marinate cherries in above ingredients for 1 hr. Replace equal amount of the milk with the marinating liquid, omit the second 1/3 cup sugar sprinkled over the fruit in the master recipe and proceed as directed.

Pear Clafoutis
Fresh pears peeled, cored and sliced or drained, canned pear halves
¼ cup sweet white wine, kirsch or cognac
1/3 cup sugar
Proceed as directed for Cherry Clafoutis above

Peach or Plum Clafoutis
If using fresh fruit, drop them in boiling water for 1 min. to peel, otherwise use drained, canned halves
¼ cup orange liqueur, kirsch, cognac or peach brandy.
1/3 cup sugar
Proceed as directed for Cherry Clafoutis.

Apple Clafoutis
Cut prepared apples in ¼ inch slices-Choose crisp cooking apples
¾ Tbs. butter
¼ cup Calvados, rum or cognac
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
Saute the apples in the butter until brown. Add the liqueur, sugar and spice and allow to stand for ½ hr. Proceed as directed for the Cherry Clafoutis above.

Blueberry Clafoutis
3 cups stemmed, washed and dried blueberries
Increase flour to 1 ¼ cups
¼ cup kirsch, orange liqueur or brandy
1/3 cup sugar
The increase in flour is needed to compensate for the extra juice in the blueberries. The resulting dessert will have a consistency resembling a Pudding Cake.
Otherwise follow the recipe for Cherry Clafoutis.

Almond Clafoutis-Usually done with Cherry or Pear recipes, but is good with Peach and Plum as well
½ cup blanched almonds
1 tsp. almond extract
Puree the almonds with the batter and add the extract. Proceed with the recipe.

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