The rustic clafoutis dresses up

June 13th, 2008

Some call it “homely”, others say: “just a simple pudding” - whatever its reputation as a provincial dessert, the cherry clafoutis of the Limousin has wide appeal as an adaptible, versatile treat. James Villas, one of my favorite oracles on French cooking, calls it a Cherry Flan. And around Limoges, cherries are the classic fruit (always with the pits - for flavor) to be used. But when my black currant bush was loaded with berries this year, and juicy nectarines from the market called out to be included, the “simple pudding” took on a new identity. With a penchant for including almonds (in most everything), I reached for a small bar of almond paste to be grated into the mix. The nectarines are washed, not peeled - for color - and a sprinkling of flaked almonds toasts on top as it bakes. Bring the clafoutis to the table warm while the nectarines have puffed to the top, or let it cool and enjoy the custard chilled. This recipe is adapted from two sources, given below, and serves four or five. Try your own variations, even as a savory starter with cherry tomatoes by adding some salt (or chopped anchovies?), omitting the sugar, steeping a bay leaf in the hot milk, and scattering grated parmesan over it all. Salty or sweet, pour this batter into a baked pie crust, to be dressed up for the fête. Allow an hour for the batter to rest, and about 30 minutes to bake.

1 cup milk + 1 T. butter

2 large eggs

1/3 cup vanilla sugar + pinch of salt

2 T. grated almond paste

1 tsp. almond extract

3/4 cup sifted flour, or half flour and half ground almonds (almond flour)

2 large nectarines, sliced

1/2 cup fresh, stemmed black or red currants

1/3 cup of flaked almonds + 1 T. sugar

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and let the butter melt in it - do not scald - and let cool before adding it to the eggs. Whisk the eggs until foamy, then add the sugar, flour, and then stir in the grated (soft) almond paste: then stir in the milk and extract. Allow this batter to rest an hour. (This makes a firm flan - use less flour for softer consistency.) Meanwhile, slice the peaches, butter a 9 inch baking dish (I use a glass pyrex pie plate), and pick (and stem!) the fresh currants. Don’t forget to chill the wine. Preheat the oven to 375°f/191°c. Arrange the nectarine slices in a radial pattern, scatter the berries in the middle and a few around the edges, the pour the batter over all. Scatter flaked almonds on top, then sprinkle a little sugar over all. Bake for 30 minutes or until toasty and golden. Pour chilled sparkling Vouvray into flutes with a few black currants, or serve with a cool Saussignac sweet wine from Clos d’Yvigne.

This clafoutis is adapted from: Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Supper at Luques, Knopf, 2005. My copy falls open to her recipe for Cranberry-Walnut Clafoutis with Bourbon Whipped Cream. Inspired. And for a larger, more classic clafoutis (for 8), refer to James Villas’ French Country Kitchen, Bantam Books 1992, his superb collection of basics.

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