Food Nerd for Aug 10-16, 2006

The thing about being a food nerd is that your head is filled with food nerdy dreams. Some other varieties of nerds might dream of, I don’t know, number theory, or of slaying elves or something.

I dream of clafoutis.

Clafoutis (that’s “cla-foo-tee”) is a French dessert, a sort of baked custard cake, studded with black cherries or other fruit, and dusted with powdered sugar. In photos, clafoutis (Clafoutises? Clafouti?) are often displayed in blackened, cast-iron skillets atop blue-and-white checked picnic-y tablecloths, beside a bowl of mountainous whipped cream. A photographed clafoutis always looks obscenely delicious, in a laid-back, rustic, déjeuner sur l’herbe kind of way.

Now, I have never made (or even eaten) clafoutis before. I just assume I know what I’m talking about. So when my cousin Olivia emerged from the backyard brambles last weekend with a tub of raspberries for me, I only had one thought:

Clafoutis.

So out came the cookbooks. On went the computer. A complex, 48-hour comparison and fusion of recipes began. By day I was consulting French websites and back issues of Martha Stewart Living. By night I was arguing the virtues of sugaring the baking pan versus just buttering it. I had become obsessed.

But obsession is an odd thing.

Amid my clafoutis madness, did I actually go out and pick up the appropriate groceries? Did I take the time to translate the European measurements (by weight) to American ones (by volume)? In my head, I had already taken my place as Newfoundland’s own clafoutis queen. Somehow the details of claiming this crown had been all but overlooked.

When my brief window of baking time came, I was standing in my kitchen, staring at the cupboard. How is it that I don’t own white sugar? What kind of food nerd am I? Oh, there’s sugar: golden Turbinado, sticky brown Demerrara, but plain old granulated? Nope. Icing sugar? Negatory.

Okay, so let’s try… maple syrup. If I’m going to make a traditional French dessert with raspberries from my aunt and uncle’s back yard, I might as well go all the way and make it sickeningly Canadian.

Let me also mention that in the days that had passed between the acquisition of the raspberries and the moment of clafoutis-fication, a substantial portion of the raspberries had been eaten, leaving me with about a cupful altogether. My fabricated recipe had to be reworked to a smaller quantity. Which was fine, because I could now bake my clafoutis in my cherished 7-inch cast iron skillet. Just like in the pictures.

At this point my carefully-created recipe was reduced to total guesswork. I wrote down what I was doing as I was doing it, but whether this resembles a proper clafoutis in any way, I can’t tell you. It sure looked right: pale batter clutching tight to bursting blue-red berries. Dark gold edges holding in a barely-set filling of light, eggy custard. I didn’t have a blue checked tablecloth, but I did make a bowl of mountainous whipped cream.

Short of taking off to France, I’m not sure I could have done better.

Dreae’s Something-Like-A-Clafoutis

 
1 cup raspberries
1/3 cup unbleached white flour
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
¼ cup cream
¼ cup milk
Pinch of sea salt
Butter for pan
Whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a 7” baking dish and spread the berries out in the dish in a single layer. Measure flour into medium-sized bowl. In another bowl, whisk together maple syrup, eggs, cream, milk, and salt. Add liquid to flour, beating out any large lumps. Pour batter over fruit, so that berries are just covered. Bake about 25 minutes, until clafoutis is puffed and golden, and set in the centre. Serve warm with whipped cream.

– Andreae Prozesky

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