Monday, 10 August 2015
Plums and other stone fruit are in season this time of year. That means they are the most available and taste the best than any other time of year. Learning to focus on seasonal produce will improve the quality of the dishes you prepare and save you money. It's been a while since we've done a dessert recipe here on the blog and if there's one thing plums are great for, it's desserts! I'm using plums here for a clafoutis. A clafoutis is a rustic, French country pastry that traditionally uses cherries but you can use just about any fruit you like. The body of a clafoutis is kind of a cross between a pancake and a custard; light, soft and creamy. It's simple and doesn't require many ingredients so this makes a great project for a beginner who's new to baking.
This is completely optional, but I soaked my plums in Grand Marnier (an orange liqueur) for about an hour before preparing the clafoutis. It was an experiment that I'm happy to say worked out really well. If you can't get Grand Marnier, then any brandy, cognac or even a spiced rum would work well in its place.
This recipe also uses a vanilla bean. If you can't get one of these, then use a tsp of vanilla extract instead. You will get a better and fresher flavour with a vanilla bean though. You can find them at some specialty stores or online. A vanilla bean is a long, narrow pod full of grainy, black seeds. A great way to make use of the leftover vanilla pod is to use it to make your very own vanilla-infused sugar. It's really simple.
To extract the seeds from your vanilla bean, lay it flat and run a paring knife down the seam to split it open. Use your fingers to carefully open the pod and use the back of the paring knife to scrape up as many of the seeds as you can. Reserve them for the recipe.
Instead of discarding the pod which is still full of fragrance and flavour, put it in a container with about 2 cups of sugar. Any kind of sugar you choose will work. Close the lid of the container tightly and give it a vigorous shake. Then open the lid and ensure that the pod is completely buried in sugar before closing it back up.
I like to label the container with the date so I know when it was first made. You can start using it after a week but the longer it sits, the more vanilla flavour will infuse in the sugar. Vanilla sugar is great to use in baking or anywhere you might think it would be good. In coffee, for example, is a nice treat. Every now and again it doesn't hurt to give your vanilla sugar a shake or two for good measure.
Before we get started with the recipe, please take note you will need a 12" fluted pie dish.
3-4 large plums, stoned and cut into eighths
1.5 cups Grand Marnier
1 tbsp butter
2 large eggs
1/3 cup white sugar, plus 2 tbsp (divided)
1/3 cup flour
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp confectioner's sugar
Preheat your oven to 375 F/190 C.
You can use any kind of plum you like. From the variety I had to choose from I picked these nice red ones. I wasn't sure how many I needed at first, but 3 or 4 should serve you well.
You can arrange your slices of plum any way you like. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Remember, this is a rustic dish. I did a bit of a design with mine. You may replicate it or do whatever you like. As long as they're about evenly spaced apart and you leave a bit of space from the edge it will look great when it's done. I recommend placing your slices in the dish before the next step. That way you can gauge how many you'll need and how many will fit in your design.
Feel free to omit this step if you wish, but it does add a very nice flavour and elevates your clafoutis. Place your slices of plum in a container and fill until just covered with Grand Marnier. I used a measuring cup and it took exactly 1.5 cups of liqueur, but this may vary depending on the dimensions of your container and how much plum you're using.
Let your plums soak for at least an hour but you could go as long as overnight if you want. Then strain thoroughly and reserve. I suppose you could discard the remaining Grand Marnier but why not save it? It will have a little natural plum flavour to it and the alcohol won't let it spoil. May be nice to sip on or use in a different recipe.
While your plums are soaking, put your batter together. I used a blender which was fast and efficient but you can definitely use a large bowl and a whisk instead. Pulse or whisk the eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, salt and vanilla just until well combined.
Sift in the flour and mix to incorporate.
Gently pour in the milk while mixing or whisking. You should end up with a thin batter similar to that of pancakes.
Use 1 tbsp of butter to grease the base and sides of a fluted pie dish. Add 1 tbsp of sugar and roll the dish around so that it dusts all over the butter.
Arrange your slices of plum as you wish.
Gently pour the batter into the dish, trying not to pour directly over any of the plums. The batter should come up the sides of the plums, but not cover them completely. Then sprinkle with the remaining tbsp of sugar.
Place the clafoutis in the middle of your preheated oven and let it cook for about 45 minutes or until the sides start to turn golden brown. The clafoutis will rise and soufflé a bit as it cooks. Place on a wire rack for 15 minutes to cool.
When the clafoutis has cooled off enough, dust with confectioner's sugar using a sieve. This is an optional step, but it's important to let the clafoutis cool for at least 15 minutes before this part or else it will be too warm and the sugar will dissolve. Now you're ready to slice and serve! Clafoutis is best enjoyed warm or at room temperature.
You can do this right? No sweat! You can make this any time of year using just about whatever seasonal fruit you like. Plums make a fantastic clafoutis and now is the time to use 'em if you're intrigued. They blister and get sweeter when they cook. Plums have a natural tartness that turns nice and tangy and the Grand Marnier gives your palate an orange kiss at the end. Combine that with fluffy, creamy custard and you're the mayor of clafoutis town.
This is a great recipe to try if you're looking for something new. There is more where this came from so be sure to check back often.