Category Archives: Baking

Clafoutis


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Cherry Clafoutis

What is it? Here’s all you need to know: it is easier and more delicious than a pancake and will change the way you think about summer fruits (and maybe some other stuff like pears and apples and chocolate and hazelnuts and…?). I don’t think there is a consensus on the “classic” clafoutis, but from my research, I think it is either made with cherries or pears. Because they are in season and recently been reasonably priced, I made mine with cherries, but rumor has it that peaches and other stone fruit work really well, and I think that a combo of apricots and blueberries might be utterly amazing.

The most difficult part about making a clafoutis is hefting the cast iron skillet in which it is made in and out of the oven. You could probably make it in another kind of baking dish, but why? A cast iron skillet is something you should have in your kitchen at this very moment, hopefully out and showcased on the stovetop, ready and waiting for your next delicious creation. So here is how you do it:

Preheat your oven to 325.
Drop a knob of high-quality butter (try something other than store brand and you will be happy you did) into the skillet and, using your impeccably clean hands, smooth out all along the bottom and up the sides.
Whisk together in a large mixing bowl:
3 room-temp eggs
1/2 C whole milk (maybe half and half, if you feel like it)
1/2 C sugar
Dash of vanilla or almond extract
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP melted butter
1/2 C of flour (I used cake flour, but I think all-purpose is just fine)
The mixture should be smooth and lump-free when you finish (you don’t want any bits of dry flour). I think it’s best to let this sit for a bit while you prepare the fruit, so I make the batter right off the bat. Note: the batter will be thin; somewhere between crepe batter and pancake batter.

Next, prepare your cherries or other fruit. On the amount, I just eyeball it. You want enough to cover the bottom of your skillet nicely without being too crowded. You should probably have enough to that you can snack on while you are prepping them, too. You don’t have to do anything to them besides pit them. There is enough sugar in the batter to sweeten them up and I don’t really see any point to messing with them any further than that. Pitting is a drag and an mess, but just get through it – I know there are devices and tricks for doing this, but honestly, I see no point. You know where the pit is and you just need to get it out with your hands. If you’re making this for someone you want to impress (mother-in-law, love interest, professional chef), you might want to try out a cherry pitter or one of these tricks, but this clafoutis will look and taste just as good if your cherries are little mangled.

Remix the batter to make extra sure that there are no lumps, then pour into the buttered skillet. Then, evenly distribute your cherries over the top and pop into the oven immediately. Bake for about 20 minutes and, depending on how even your oven is, turn it halfway to encourage consistent browning. In total, it should take 35 to 45 minutes. You want the batter to puff and brown lightly, but watch that the edges don’t get too overdone. The middle will remain somewhat loose and custardy, so don’t freak out if it looks a little underdone in the center. That’s one of the best parts. =)

Do you need one more parting shot to clafoutease you?
Ha! My sweet friend Pari will love this.

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Clafoutease

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Easy as Pie?


Pie.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t purport to be a baker. I am a cook. Anytime I am challenged to try making something that requires precise measuring, an oven, and technique, I am loath to jump in. That said, I have a few recipes in my repertoire that I consider things I can manage reasonably well with little effort or frustration. Mostly, these are items that are either a. incredibly easy, or b. things I’ve messed up enough times to finally know what I am doing. Pie crust is one of the latter.

Something everyone should know: “Easy as pie” is a complete misnomer. It’s not something that I think any amateur cook can just pick up and do and feel confident and successful. My first word of advice in this regard is to avoid any recipes written by Martha Stewart. Her recipes, especially those for baked goods, always seem to be written in a way where she sets you up for failure. I envision her cackling in the corner at my discouragement with every disaster I’ve made using her “guidance.” The only advice I take from her regarding pie crust is, “make it cold, bake it hot.”

Here is a good little list to use in pie making:

– use butter, and freeze it for a half hour before making your crust
– use a food processor, if at all possible
– pie crust is only four ingredients: butter, flour, salt, and water (that doesn’t mean pie crust is all that easy)
– use more fruit than you think you need (it is amazing how much it cooks down)
– make pies in a seasonal manner, ie, apple in the fall, berry in the summer, pecan anytime. =)
– chill the dough for at least a half hour after mixing before rolling it out

Speaking of mixing – I tried to make a video of me making pie crust, but it got a wee bit messed up, so we were only able to salvage the tail end. Regardless, I think it is pretty helpful in showing you what your pie dough should look like by the end of the process.
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Birthday Dinner


The last time Christine and Chuck visited, Chuck said something to the effect of, “I’d rather eat anything that someone I know made for me than go to a restaurant any day.”  It made me stop and think a minute and I decided that, almost every time, I would agree with him.  There is something about food that someone chooses to make for you – no matter what it is – that tastes especially satisfying. Luckily, my gracious friends pretty much feel the same way, or at least they make every attempt to appear that way.  Even when a dish comes out badly (overcooked meat or vegetables, a half-risen cake), I’ve had the luck of seeing smiling faces and clean plates.

When I asked the Bun what he wanted for his birthday dinner – mainly, whether he wanted to go out or stay in – he gave me a little look that said, “would you mind cooking for me?”  Of course, I was pleased with his answer.  After deliberating on a menu for a few days, I decided on a bit of inspiration in the form of pork rillettes, which is basically like a meaty, fatty spread you eat on bread.  It is, of course, French.  A French meal, of course!

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