Tuesday, July 7, 2009

For Dessert or Breakfast: Claufutis!

At lunch today my friend Sue shared some beautiful cherries from her little brown bag, and it reminded me of a dessert I made a long time ago: claufutis.

A claufutis is a French bread-type pudding, baked in the oven and featuring seasonal fruits. It can be served for dessert or for breakfast. I first made claufutis when my children were in high school and we hosted a French foreign-exchange student, Paul, one of a group of twenty or so who visited the Saratoga Springs area for a few weeks that summer. There was a pot-luck dinner reception in the high school cafeteria, and I thought it’d be nice for the students to have a taste of home.

It wasn’t the most French-American of experiences for Paul or for my kids. Paul was really an Irish national whose parents lived primarily in Canada but had been working in Lyon, France for a few years. Nonetheless, in the exchange-student lottery, Paul was assigned to us – an Irish-descended family of a single mother with teenagers. It worked out well and we enjoyed getting to know Paul and all his friends. I must say it was interesting listening to Paul speak French with an Irish brogue!

Paul was an interesting character. Slim with glasses and a Harry Potter-type physicality, he was mesmerized by my American daughters and their friends. He loved Wendy’s for fast food (the Wendy’s in Canada were far superior to the one on Congress St. in Saratoga Springs, we were told). I packed his lunch every day and he was completely repulsed by the tuna salad sandwiches I’d prepared. He had never heard of putting mayonnaise on fish and once he said that, it sounded odd to me, too! From then on, I gave him lunch money.

Our families had a lot of fun with our student guests, taking trips to Boston (all the historical hot spots, Quincy Market, the Boston Aquarium) and also to New York for all the requisite points of interests: museums, a Broadway show, a ferry ride across the Hudson River, and a memorable visit to the United Nations. It was a wonderful summer of cultural exchange for our kids and for the visiting students, and the most memorable times, I think, happened when they were just being kids, hanging out, swimming, and enjoying backyard meals together.

The Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse has a highly-rated recipe for claufutis. You’ll find my adaptation below, and Emeril’s original by following this link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/cherry-clafoutis-recipe/index.html :


• 4 eggs
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split in half (or one teaspoon real vanilla extract – my substitution)
• ½ tsp. almond extract (my addition – goes nicely with cherries)
• 1 tablespoon brandy (if desired – not necessary)
• 1 cup flour
• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 1 pound stoned cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an oval ovenproof dish about 13 inches long. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Scrape the vanilla bean and add the pulp (or extracts) to the egg mixture. Stir in the brandy (if using) and flour. Whisk in the milk to form a smooth batter. In a mixing bowl, toss the cherries with the remaining sugar. Place the cherries in the ovenproof dish. Pour the batter over the cherries and place in the oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the cake is sponge like. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the claufutis warm. Garnish with powdered sugar for breakfast. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream, for dessert.

A claufutis is a great way to get the most from the abundance of summer fruits showing up at farm stands over the next few weeks. You can switch out fruits/spices/flavorings to take advantage of whatever fruit is available, but cherries are classic.

Photo Image: http://www.food-info.net/images/clafoutis.jpg

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