As I mentioned in my most recent post, I’ve been working my way through Nicole Rees’s amazing cookbook, Baking Unplugged. The text celebrates the joys of making things completely by hand–no machines or fancy gadgets required.
So far, every recipe I have tried (five, as of this writing) has been fantastic, from stick-to-your fingers moist chocolate snack cake to breakfast rolls flavored with orange zest and cardamom and dotted with rum-plumped golden raisins. Among these five recipes, the simplest has been the Cranberry Clafouti; it’s also been one of the most enjoyable, with a depth of flavor that I would have never expected from a dessert that is like a custardy puff pancake.
Because it is cranberry season, one of my favorite seasons of the year, I’m including the recipe here. And because it is also the gift-giving season for many people, I am recommending Baking Unplugged as a great gift idea, equally perfect for someone who is just learning to bake as it would be for someone who already knows the pleasures of a mixing bowl and whisk. This book just makes me really, really happy.
So here is the clafouti recipe. I have no advice to offer because, in the three times I’ve made the clafouti, I’ve followed the instructions and ingredient list as printed in the book, and everything worked out beautifully every time. I should mention that I cut the recipe in half (and yes, use one and a half eggs!) and cook it in my small skillet, and I cut the cooking time down to seven minutes for this smaller version. I have made the clafouti both with and without the almond extract, and my personal preference is to leave it out. For the liquor I use amaretto, and I love the depth of flavor it adds to the sautéed fruit.
Makes 3 to 4 servings
½ C. all-purpose flour
½ C. sugar (Rees says: If you would like to use a fruit other than cranberries, use ¼ C. sugar)
¼ tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1 C. (scant) whole milk or 2% milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract (optional)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 ½ C. cranberries (or other fresh fruit)
3 Tbsp. brandy, amaretto, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau—whatever you have on hand
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 425°F. Place an ovenproof 9″ or 10″ skillet over medium heat for a minute or two to get hot. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt. Gradually whisk in the eggs until the mixture is smooth and lump free. Whisk in the milk and extracts.
Melt the butter in the hot skillet, swirling to coat evenly. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the butter and then add the fruit to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and sauté, shaking the pan frequently, until the fruit softens and the juices and sugar form thick syrup, about five minutes (about three minutes for most other fruits).
Turn off the heat and add the brandy to the pan, shaking the pan to coat the fruit evenly. Pour the egg batter into the pan. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until puffed on the sides and fully cooked in the center (check with the tip of a knife). Serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar.