I’ve gobbled down so many fresh cherries this summer, my fingertips might be permanently tinged pink. I do want to be sure to squeeze in at least a little baking with them, though, before their short season is over. Clafoutis is an easy place to start (especially if the batter’s whizzed up in a blender), and it’s one of my husbands favorites.
If you’ve never had a clafoutis, it’s a classic French country dessert. You start by pouring a pancake- or crêpe-like batter over whole cherries. The batter soufflés and then settles into something that’s more like a sliceable, semi-firm custard. It’s delicious slightly warm or at room temperature, and a little whipped cream doesn’t hurt, either.
As coincidence would have it, today is Bastille Day– a perfect way to celebrate!
Cherry Clafoutis– makes 6-8 servings
Steph’s Note: Traditionally the cherries for clafoutis are not pitted, but in the interest of keeping my smile intact, I pit mine…the choice is yours. You can also make this with other types of sliced stonefruit, apples, pears or even berries.
1 lb whole dark sweet cherries, pitted or not
4 large eggs
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1 c whole milk
1 T kirsch or brandy (optional)
2 t vanilla extract
3/4 c all-purpose flour
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
-Preheat oven to 350ºF with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- or 10-inch deep-dish pie pan.
-Place cherries in an even layer over the bottom of the pie pan. If you have pitted your cherries, and they’ve released any juice, pour the juice into a blender. Add eggs to the blender, along with the sugar, salt, milk, kirsch or brandy (if using) and vanilla and blend to combine. Add the flour and blend just until combined.
– Pour batter over the cherries and place the pie pan on a baking sheet. Bake until puffed and just set in center, about 35-45 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes (it will fall and settle as it cools), then dust with confectioners sugar.
Elizabeth of Cake or Death? chose Apple-Apple Bread Pudding for TWD this week, but I actually baked this baby back in October. I’m not really sure anymore why I made it then…probably some combination of warm apple desserts sounding good to me at the time and having a couple of orphaned yolks to use up. Whatever…what’s important is that I remember how good it was. Caramelized apples and custard-soaked bread (or…umm…croissant). So squidgy and good. A little caramel sauce might have been gilding the lily, but I recommend it anyway.
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a publicist about a new cookbook called DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth New Orleans Style by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel. She showed me a couple of recipes…this book is chock full of classic New Orleans sweets (think beignets and pralines), with stories and gorgeous photos to boot. I was drawn to a recipe for Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble…odd, since I’m not usually that into bananas, but I am a “selective appreciator,” and the husband loves nursery desserts.
This is definitely a high-class version of the dessert I remember as kid– all the traditional bits are there, but they’ve been optimized. With five yolks, it is a rich and delicious pudding, and with a nice glug of booze, I made mine decidedly not-child-friendly. Frankly, I wouldn’t use anything but Nilla Wafers in banana pudding, and the crumble is an easy way to jazz them up and keep them crispy. Whether you live in New Orleans or in New York, I think you’ll like this recipe!
BTW, book author David Guas will be hosting a live chat every Sunday morning (starting today!), November 1- December 20, from 9:30-10:30 am. Chatters can log on and ask Chef Guas dessert questions or get advice. If you’re interested, go to his website and click on the Red Velvet Cake.
Banana Pudding– makes 6 servings
from DamGoodSweet by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel (Taunton Press, 2009)
For the pudding:
5 large egg yolks
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons banana liqueur (or 1 teaspoon banana flavoring)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas
For the crumble:
1 cup vanilla wafers (about 15 cookies)
2 teaspoons sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
–To make the pudding: Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and whisk a little at a time into the egg mixture. Once the bottom of the bowl is warm, slowly whisk in the remaining hot milk. Pour the mixture back into a clean medium saucepan (cleaning the saucepan prevents the pudding from scorching), add the banana liqueur, and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Cook while constantly whisking until the pudding is glossy and quite thick, 11/2 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the pudding to a clean bowl.
Add the vanilla and butter and gently whisk until the butter is completely melted and incorporated. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
–To make the crumble: While the pudding sets, heat the oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place the wafers in a resealable plastic bag and seal (make sure there is no air in the bag prior to sealing). Using a rolling pin or a flat-bottomed saucepan or pot, crush the vanilla wafers until they’re coarsely ground. Transfer them to a small bowl and stir in the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Use a spoon to evenly stir in the melted butter, transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and toast in the oven until brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (The crumbs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature or frozen for up to 2 months; re-crisp in a 325°F oven for 6 to 7 minutes if necessary.)
–To serve: Slice the bananas in half crosswise and then slice in half lengthwise so you have 4 quarters. Slice the banana quarters crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces and divide between 6 custard cups or martini glasses (sprinkle with a squeeze of lemon juice if you like—this helps prevent browning). Whisk the pudding until it is soft and smooth, about 30 seconds, and then divide it between the custard cups. Top with the vanilla wafer mixture and serve. (If not served immediately, the pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, with plastic wrap intact. Sprinkle the crumbs on just before serving.)
Did you see the news about Gourmet? I am sad. I need something to make me smile. Something like pudding. Maybe coffee pudding. Some chocolate would be good, too.
Oh, ya know– I have just the thing in the fridge right now, since Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla picked Split Level Pudding for TWD this week. Pudding on top, bittersweet ganache on the bottom. This is just the thing to make me feel a little better. Excuse this short post, but now I’m off to make you something from the pages of Gourmet.
I wonder if the bankers in the building across the street ever notice me taking photos of my food on the windowsill. I can see them clearly, so maybe they see me, too? If they do, I’m sure they were jealous that on a Wednesday afternoon, while they were sitting in their offices or in the conference room with the red walls and heinous artwork, I was enjoying a chocolate soufflé with hazelnut crème anglaise. This is all thanks to Susan of She’s Becoming DoughMessTic, who chose chocolate soufflés for TWD this week.
At every restaurant I’ve worked in, there’s been a soufflé on the menu at some point. Every pastry chef seems to make them a little differently, but I’ve picked up a few universal tips along the way. Use soft butter to coat your ramekins well (one chef had us do two coats). Use room temperature whites and whip them until they “look like shaving cream.” (I prefer to whip my whites by hand, if the amount is manageable.) Fill individual molds right to the top, level them off, and clean off any batter that may have slopped on the rims. Most importantly, get your soufflés to the table straight away (in a restaurant, this is actually the hardest part, because when a soufflé comes out of the oven, inevitably there are no waiters to be found!).
I made a few individual soufflés, rather than the larger one Dorie suggests. The principles are the same, but the baking time is shorter. I had mine in the oven for somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes…I like them a little puddingy and creamy inside. They were really very chocolatey, light and delicious….and a little pot of chilled hazelnut crème anglaise served alongside didn’t hurt matters any.
TWD started April with a Banana Cream Pie, moved on to two intense chocolate desserts and, thanks to Kim of Scrumptious Photography, we ended April with a Chocolate Cream Tart. It’s as if we’ve come full circle, really. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but sometimes I think it’s funny how the choices each month shake out.
Chocolate pastry cream with whipped cream on top, all in a chocolate crust– oh my word! I went halvsies with this week’s recipe, and had plenty for six individual-sized tarts. These little guys are super-chocolaty and super-good! R and I ate them in contented silence…then neither of us could move to do the dishes afterward! Some thought that all that chocolate was a bit too much, and opted for a plain tart crust instead. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was quite happy to try out Dorie’s chocolate shortbread crust recipe, and liked it a lot. I did find, though, that when making the dough, it was a little dry. I had to add a couple teaspoons of milk to get it to come together, but then it was pretty easy to work with.
I’m just back from seriously stuffing myself all over London (I’ll try and tell you more later…you will be either impressed or disgusted by what I was able to pack away in only five short days!), but I still say, “more chocolate, please!” My pal Lauren from A Baking Blog (aka Upper East Side Chronicle) has thankfully obliged by choosing Four-Star Chocolate Bread Pudding for TWD this week.
All the restaurants I’ve worked for have had some version of bread pudding on the menu at some point in time, so it should be old hat. Really, though, I’ve had limited success with making bread pudding at home. It’s my own fault…I usually cut corners with the cream and yolks in an effort to make it a little less fattening, but the end result is a tough, dry let-down. This go-around, I stuck to the recipe…my compromise here was to make just a third. Only a few portions, but each one would have the full effect.
Dorie recommends brioche or challah as the base for this bread pudding. Both yummy, but I happen to have a stash old croissants in the freezer (leftovers from work), so I just used a couple of those. Talk about cutting out that fat– ha! That picture up top may not look too appetizing (it’s just so darn brown), but let me assure you that this is good, squidgy stuff…even with the dried cherries, which I wouldn’t normally go for in a chocolate dessert.
I’ve had such a busy week, running all over the city after work and on my days off to get errands done for a trip to the UK. I’ll actually be there by the time you read this (so I might not be able to do much commenting on cream pies, unfortunately). I’m Godmother to a friend’s baby boy. His name is Ian, he lives in London and I had lots of bits and pieces to pick up for the Baptism ceremony, which will be at the end of the week. Not to mention that Friday was my birthday, and on Saturday my husband and I went to see a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, which is currently taping in New York. I’ve listened to the show since I was a kid, so it was fun to see goofy Garrison Keillor do his thing live. And Wynton Marsalis was a guest, so that was a pretty good present, I think.
Of course I still made the time to put together this Banana Cream Pie, Amy’s choice for TWD this week. I’ve said many times before that I don’t like raw bananas, but I like to keep an open mind about trying new things. I’ve never made or even had banana cream pie before, so why not give it a go? I had some homemade pie dough in the freezer anyway (it had been there forever, and I was actually itching to use it up), so the hardest part was already taken care of.
Hey, guess what– I thought this was good (and my husband loved it)! I do have a fondness for cream pies…they are tasty and squidgy, especially fresh, homemade ones. I’m not a banana convert, or anything, so I probably won’t make this one again…raw bananas still are a bit slimy in my book. I did really like the way Dorie uses brown sugar in the custard recipe and sour cream in the whipped cream topping. Yum on both counts there! My personal twist was using a little vanilla bean to flavor both.
Bridget, from the gorgeous blog The Way the Cookie Crumbles, chose Dorie’s Lemon Cup Custard for TWD this week. I opted to go for the lemon-clove “Playing Around” suggestion in the book, and since it is a cup custard, I naturally baked mine in a cup.
I actually don’t have too much to say on this one, but there was a lot of talk (mostly not-so-positive) on the comment board. For group members who didn’t like the recipe, the main problem was the “egginess” of the custard. I happen to love eggy custards. In fact, I chose Dorie’s flan when my turn to pick came around last March (I was worried that if I didn’t, no one would!). These little cups are prepared similarly to flan custard, and their texture and eggy taste did remind me of flan. But without the caramel sauce, they were rather unremarkable. This recipe was not bad by any means, just a bit boring.
Shari, a loyal TWDer who does cool things with classic dishes on Whisk: a food blog, chose Floating Islands (île flottante), a traditional French dessert, for this week’s recipe. I actually would have called this “snow eggs” (oeufs à la neige), but now I realize I don’t know what the difference is, if there really is one (and Googling it didn’t help, as I found different info on each link…too much information sometimes just confuses me).
This dessert makes me smile; it looks kind of goofy, don’t you think? The basic idea is this: a milk-poached meringue sits in a pool of crème anglaise custard. It’s light from the meringue and, at the same time, rich from the custard…and because it’s served chilled, it’s really quite refreshing.
Rather than quenelling smooth, egg-shaped meringues, I tried to make cute, spiky little islands. Unfortunately, my cute spikes flattened as I turned the meringues during the poaching process, and I ended up with deformed blobs. Whatever…looks aren’t everything. I made my meringues first, and so that I wouldn’t waste the poaching milk, I strained and remeasured it and used it as the basis for the custard sauce.
Traditionally, a drizzle of caramel finishes off floating islands, but because caramel doesn’t keep, and I had to take the blog pictures several hours before I’d be eating the dessert, I chose to skip that bit. I didn’t want my islands to look barren though, so in an effort to spruce them up another way, I decided to infuse my anglaise with orange zest and garnish with a few fresh berries. And since this is an old-school dessert, I went with some old-school baby mint sprigs, just for good measure.