4.20.2010

it's a clafouti! it's a Dutch baby! it's a . . . flognarde?


My taste buds have been kind of weird lately.

It started back on Easter, with the tart astringency of the strawberry-rhubarb pie and the super-lemony beurre blanc we dipped our asparagus in. Then it was the citrus olive oil cake, chock full of orange-y goodness. Since then I have made a Meyer lemon curd, which, aside from being slathered on our blueberry pancakes on Sunday, is still awaiting the inspiration for its final destination (ideas anyone?). I have also discovered the addictive nature of raw kumquats. And then this morning I made a raspberry-rhubarb clafouti, which I spiked with Meyer lemon zest and juice.


Friends, I am all about tart these days. Is it the influence of Spring? Is it from watching my parents try to kick their sugar habit? Is it old age? I can't give you a definitive answer (although I'm really hoping that it's not that last one). All I know is that I've recently found myself embracing sourness like never before. Maybe it's just my body finally figuring out a sense of balance, a Dessert Equilibrium, as it were. Because I haven't traded out my fondness for sugar during this time (oh no, not even close!), I'm just becoming more inclusive and varied in my preferences. And I'm enjoying it, so I don't want to question it too much.

I especially enjoyed this clafouti. I realize that raspberries are very much not in season right now (at least here in Maine), but these from-away berries actually worked in my favor this time - their puckery tartness blazed a path right through the warm, sunny sweetness I usually associate with fresh-from-the-vine raspberries. A perfect match, I felt, to equally zesty rhubarb. The brown sugar and spices gave the dish warmth and complexity, a "what is that flavor?" elusive quality that made the dish anything but plain and homey. And the batter? Oh, the batter! Rich with egg yolks and creme fraiche and perfumed by vanilla, I could easily eat this without any accompanying fruit. Of course, then I would feel like a bit of a hypocrite when I admonished the kids to "take a bite with the fruit, too! It's the healthy part!" But still, it's the kind of pillowy, velvety custard-cake that one might be tempted to bury one's face in, if no one else was around to see. Not that anyone at my house would do such a thing. Of course not.


Moving right along (not to change gears too quickly or anything), I'd like to address that slightly-odd title you may be wondering about. No, I am not confused as to what to call the dish I made today. But apparently the rest of the free world is. You see, a clafouti is technically only a clafouti if it's made with cherries (and then, if you want to get really nit-picky, you need to leave the pits in. But I'm not that into trepidation with my dessert). Any time you take a clafouti recipe and switch the cherries out for another fruit, you're really making a flognarde (say "flow nyard"). But has anyone ever, EVER, seen a cookbook - or menu - listing for flognarde? I didn't think so. (Although I'd love to know about it if you have! Go ahead, prove me wrong!) Maybe it's because the name isn't as fun to say, but even highly reputable pastry chefs call their flognarde a clafouti. So I will too, but just so long as we're clear that I do know the difference. And now you do, too.

And the Dutch baby part? Well, it's a similar dish, an eggy, custardy baked pancake thing, which is sometimes (and to its benefit) paired with fruit. But no one would confuse what I made with a Dutch baby - mine is much richer and more complex, without quite as dramatic an inflate-deflate tendency. (Yes, clafoutis still deflate! But in a gentler, cakey sort of way.) But since Dutch babies are an accepted (if occasional) breakfast food, I had hoped that by getting them into your head right from the start, no one would bat an eyelash when I later suggested you eat my clafouti for breakfast. Because mine is also a comforting, satisfying dish made with fruit, eggs and milk, which sounds an awful lot like a breakfast food to me. Maybe just not an everyday one.


Spiced Raspberry-Rhubarb Clafouti
Serves 6-8

This recipe is a sure sign of how small the restaurant/pastry world really is. While the filling is my own, the batter is my adaptation of a clafouti recipe I discovered randomly in a blog. The author credited a friend of hers for the recipe, and when I read that entry's comments, I saw that her friend deferred to a chef, a former boss, as the one who gave her the recipe (and he got it who-knows-where). This particular chef was one that Josh also worked for, in his first restaurant job in NYC, when we lived there years and years ago, which set off a light bulb in my head. When I asked Josh about it, he told me that yes, he remembered both the blog author and her friend, as they both worked at the NYC restaurant during the same period that he was there. So, apparently, had I known to ask for it, I could have had - and been making - this clafouti recipe going on eight years now. Better late than never . . . 

For the filling: 
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (mine was frozen, thawed and drained of most of the accumulated juice)
1 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 whole star anise, ground with a mortar and pestle, then sifted so only the finest bits get kept
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
zest of one Meyer lemon
juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon

For the batter: 
1/2 cup (75 grams) Tara's gf pastry flour mix (at the end of this post)
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup (114 grams) confectioner's sugar
pinch salt
2 whole large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cup (10 fluid ounces/300 ml) whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup creme fraiche 

Make the filling: 
Combine all filling ingredients in a wide saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the fruit softens (the raspberries will begin to break down) and the sauce thickens a bit. Let cool. 

Make the batter: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. (You can also use individual ramekins for this.)

Combine the flour, xanthan gum, confectioner's sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to remove any lumps.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs and yolks, and then whisk in the milk and vanilla.

Pour a little of the liquid into the dry ingredients and whisk to make a slurry (this will help prevent lumps), then whisk in the rest of the liquid.

Stir the creme fraiche to smooth it out, then whisk it into the batter.

Spread the filling in an even layer in the pie plate or ramekins (you should have some filling leftover). Pour the batter through a fine mesh strainer to remove any rogue lumps. Pour the batter over the filling. (I combined the strainer part with this step - just held the strainer over my baking dishes as I slowly poured the batter in. Worked fine and saved an extra bowl from having to be washed.) Fill your pie plate/ramekins about 2/3 of the way full, which might leave you with a little extra batter.

Bake until well-puffed, golden brown, and set in the middle. The original recipe says this should take 40-50 minutes for a large clafouti, and less time for ramekins. In my oven? The ramekins took 40 minutes, the large version took almost 70 minutes. This is with an oven thermometer in there, registering a steady 350 degrees. Clearly something is wrong in my oven, and I hope that the 40-50 minute estimate is more accurate for the rest of you. Unless you, too, are dealing with a wacky, 25 year-old ex-restaurant oven, in which case I sincerely feel for you.

Allow to cool before serving. Can be served at room temperature or re-warmed in the oven. Refrigerate any leftovers.

2 comments:

  1. really nice association we have rhubarb in the garden but not yet raspberries... so this recipe will way until we have fresh raspberries to taste it. I am sure it should be great !

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  2. Yes, the raspberries were a special treat for us, as we normally wait until the height of summer, when the local ones are ripe! I'm glad rhubarb freezes so well, as I'd like to make this again in a couple months when we can pick our own berries. :)

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