p3: Lavash Crackers

#10, Lavash Crackers

My yearly Father’s Day dinner/brunch gift ended up belated this year, a combination of my father’s returning from vacation and a very busy last week I just had. A few days after getting back he made his official request: Tuna Tartar, Crab Cakes, and Lemon Bars. The last two have nothing to do with this post, but the tartar found me looking for something to serve it on top; originally, my thoughts went towards just grilling the white loaf bread I was PLANNING on making, but then I did a double-check through the book and found a more obvious answer. Instead of making that (maybe I’ll do it next week, we’ll see), wouldn’t it just be better to explore my first homemade cracker for the classic crispy route?

lavash-stack-800x562Lavash itself is one of a group of flatbreads made throughout the Middle-East and North Africa by different names and different thicknesses and baking; which makes me already feel better going into it. I’m sure even if I DO screw up getting them ideally thin, the main issue (supposedly ‘paper-thin’ is the goal), I’ll have probably made one of the other ones anyway! Now, back to the cracker itself, which has mainly Armenian and Iranian connections. One of the things that drew me to it, and the reason it’s in the book of course, being the fact it’s a yeasted, rising cracker, as opposed to the typical unleavened kind we’re actually used to. Definitely gives that extra element of intrigue and challenge; and as such more excuses for when I inevitably screw something up on this first try!

20150628_111717Recipe
1 ½ cup/6.75oz Bread Flour
½ tsp/0.13oz Salt
½ tsp/0.055oz Dry Yeast
1 Tb/0.75oz Honey
1 Tb/0.5oz Vegetable/Olive Oil
1/3-½ cup/3-4oz Water, Room Temp
Large-grain Salt and Whole Spices for topping

Directions

  1. Stir all measured ingredients together, starting with 1/3 cup of water and adding only as much as needed to bring everything into a ball.20150628_111903
  2. Sprinkle flour on counter and knead dough for about 10 minutes until it passes the windowpane test, is somewhat firm, not tacky or sticky, and stretches when pulled.20150628_112152
  3. Lightly oil bowl, transfer and roll dough to coat, covering tight with plastic wrap. Bulk ferment 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.20150628_135423
  4. Lightly mist counter with spray oil, plop dough down and press into a square, lightly dusting the top with extra bread flour.20150628_135713
  5. Taking a rolling pin, roll your dough out into a large rectangular shape (if able, or just a big circle-ish blob thing), until the dough is ‘paper thin,’ or as thin as one can make it. Every now and then, one will want to pause, briefly lift from the counter to let the dough ‘pull back,’ cover with a towel/plastic wrap, and let the dough rest before continuing. Otherwise the gluten will just end up tight and spring back when it’s moved and thus re-thicken up.
  6. Once rolled up, cover with towel and let relax 5 minutes.20150628_140802
  7. Preheat oven 350F.20150628_141358
  8. Transfer dough to parchment-paper lined sheet tray and mist the top with water.20150628_141937
  9. Taking your desired spices/seasonings, sprinkle a covering over the dough in whatever alternating, evenly distributed, shaped, or other pattern desired over the dough. May want to gently pat them down afterward.20150628_142328
  10. If one desires shaped crackers, take a pizza cutter and quickly slice through dough to create the desired shapes. Do not feel the need to get particularly deep and thorough cuts, as dough will easily snap apart at the creases once baked and cooled later.20150628_145521
  11. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (if crackers are thick and not cooked throughout like desired, lower oven temp to 275-300F by this point and cook until fully dried out).
  12. Remove from oven, let cool at least 10 minutes, and snap off shards or pre-cut shapes.20150628_175005
  13. Place into serving basket or other container and enjoy alongside desired dip, topper, or other use.

What Have I Learned This Time?

Thinner, THINNER Damn You! I mean me. Damn Me.

20150628_135928Even after rolling it out to what seemed really thin, having made sure it had rested a few times, and without it shrinking back down a bit after lifting up (and even so I sorta re-stretched it a bit wider again), I’m still damn sure this is thicker than desired. It took longer to cook too, likely leading to the probably-darker-than-desired result you see in the pictures. Next time I attack a recipe like this, I think I just have to set myself to the reality that rolling out the dough should take at least half an hour, giving it multiple ample resting periods to prevent draw-back and to make sure I can get it wide safely.

Two more things; the book stated a measurement of 15”x12”, what I basically got it to, and still not where it should have been. So I’m just gonna say F-it next time.

NO MORE FLIPPING! I’m not sure if you do this, but when rolling out pie doughs and the like, I’ve developed the habit of flipping the dough over every now and then to make sure no side gets particularly stuck to the counter; plus help with even rolling. This is a BIG No-No for the cracker apparently, when there’s oil on the counter; after a couple flips just made it sticky and hard to roll out, probably cuz it was mixing with the dusting of flour.

Less Salt, More Whole Spices… at least go easy on the sodium sprinkles if needed.

Any Thoughts?

Why did I cut them into triangles again? Tartar works so much better on rectangular-ish thingies…

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Not sure, was hard to judge the dough itself this time, though it was rolling really well in the beginning so I think this one had potential to not hate my guts… good job me in turning that aside!

p3: French Baguette

#9, French Bread (Baguette Baby)

sweet-baguette_900_600_sTwo days off, the house completely free to myself, I think it’s about time I tackled the classic Baguette. Though in hindsight I now feel a little guilty in making one of the most desired and ideal daily breads with everyone else out of the house, but another way to look at it is that no one’s here to see me fail if that does indeed happen! But I wanted to put these few beginning lessons, tricks, and ideas/theories of my own into practice and see what I can produce. So I’ll be applying my idea of splitting the dough up before the bulk ferment, shaping a little faster and more comfortingly, and finally getting a good hearth baking experience for my bread.

That said, I’m actually planning on testing out something else today too; many recipes will make mention that, during the first rise/fermentation stage, if the dough ‘doubles in size before the allotted time’ (so if it says 2 hours to rise, but it only takes it 1 hour) to briefly punch down and knead the dough, de-gassing it, and covering again to continue rising for the duration of the time. I have yet to actually do this myself, so I’m going to de-gas one of my divided doughs halfway through to see if that helps even MORE with the gas pockets’ stability while shaping, hopefully help even more in getting that perfectly not-so-tight crumb that I had experienced in a couple previous projects.

Just realized that this would really be the perfect bread to fill this beginning section with something about its history or other interesting facts… oh well! Maybe the next time (I’m sure this won’t be my only baguette recipe).

Recipe
3 cups/16oz Pate Fermentee (recipe follows)
1¼ cups/5oz AP Flour
1¼ cups/5oz Bread Flour
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
½ tsp/0.055 Dry Yeast
¾ cup + 2Tb/6-7oz Water, Lukewarm
Semolina/Cornmeal

Directions

  1. Take Pate Fermentee from fridge 1-2 hours before use, cutting into 10 pieces and covering as it warms up.20150615_133123
  2. Stir pate, Flour, Salt, and Yeast together in a bowl. Add Water, mixing on low with a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, starting at ¾ cup and adding any more as needed until everything comes together in a coarse mass that is neither too sticky or stiff.20150615_133336
  3. Switch to a dough hook, kneading on medium speed for about 6 minutes until soft, tacky, not sticky, and all the pate fermentee has been evenly distributed. It should pass the windowpane test (which I felt mine did beautifully, though it’s hard to see when you can’t stretch with BOTH hands, darn camera work!).20150615_134553
  4. Divide into 3 or however many different loaves one wants to use for the recipe. Transfer to lightly oiled bowls, covering with plastic wrap.20150615_134928
  5. Bulk Ferment for 2 hours and until the dough has doubled in size. If it reaches this state notably early, lightly punch down and knead to degas, letting it rise again (still covered) to the desired point.20150615_151255
  6. Gently transfer to floured counter and start to turn into baguettes.20150615_161131
  7. First very gently shape into Batards as described for Ciabatta, let rest for five minutes.20150615_161503
  8. Once slightly relaxed, pick up by the ends, letting it naturally stretch a little further.20150615_161948
  9. Using the edge of your hand, slide a crease of sorts down the middle. Use this as a pivot to fold ‘letter style,’ folding one edge over half of the loaf, pressing with thumbs to start stretch the dough a bit. Follow this by folding the other side completely on top of the just-folded dough, lightly stretching again.20150615_162017
  10. Crease the edges down against the counter with your thumb/hand, gently sealing it closed while stretching the dough one last time.20150615_162117
  11. From here, gently rock the dough from the center to the edge, using the edge of your palms, to lengthen it to the desired size and thickness.20150615_162526
  12. Set up a couche as also described in the Ciabatta recipe, setting the loaves inside the pockets/sleeves and misting with spray oil. Leave to Proof 45-75 minutes, until risen 1½ times their size.20150615_162606
  13. Prepare oven for Hearth Baking, setting a steam pan on a lower shelf, baking stone in the middle, turning to 500F, and getting a mist sprayer set up along with 1 cup of water hot.20150615_172314
  14. Sprinkle Cornmeal/Semolina on a pan or baking peel and very gently transfer baguettes to it. Carefully slit your dough at a sharp angle, or however else desired.20150615_172700
  15. Quickly slide bread onto the stone and dump the cup of hot water into the steam pan. Close oven door, wait 30 seconds, and mist the sides of the oven with water. Repeat this twice more in 30 second intervals, turn oven down to 450F, and bake for 10 minutes.20150615_174053
  16. Check, turn baguettes around if needed to ensure even baking, and continue for another 10-20 minutes, until a rich golden brown and cooked throughout (tested with that hollow thumping sound).20150615_175727
  17. Remove from the oven, cooling over rack at least 40 minutes before slicing…20150615_175904
  18. Or cut open immediately, slather with butter, and eat it at its best.

Pate Fermentee
1 1/8 cups/5oz AP Flour
1 1/8 cups/5oz Bread Flour
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
½ tsp/0.055oz Dry Yeast
¾ cup+2Tb/6-7oz Water, Room Temp

Directions

  1. Stir together Flours, Salt, and Dry Yeast.20150615_001242
  2. Slowly add ¾ cup water, mixing with hands or stand mixer paddle attachment until it comes together in a coarse, slightly sticky ball/mass.20150615_001639
  3. Knead about 4-6 minutes, by hand on floured counter or with dough hook, until soft, pliable, and tacky.20150615_002812
  4. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer, rolling to coat. Cover Plastic and ferment 1 hour, until about 1½ times original size.20150615_014422
  5. Knead lightly to degas, return to covered bowl, and refrigerate overnight or until ready to use, up to 3 days (3 month limit if frozen).

What Have I Learned This Time?

Seriously, this recipe is the exact same as pate fermentee; it’s just that half of it is made ahead of time for overnight-fermentation-flavoring and then the rest in the same proportion is added in later. Makes me curious about making it in full and just doing super-long proofing/fermentation. I think that’s actually more traditional.

When slitting bread before baking, don’t use the whole length of the blade, which can cause the dough you just cut to drag more. Instead only use the corner for the best results; also, I feel like the ideal result might be less individual cuts, longer lines, and perhaps even DEEPER than what I just did… will have to see with my next cut bread. Sadly haven’t been able to reproduce the effect in real breads, the question then being is that from the cut or, more likely, lack of dough/gas development and/or proper structure.

Some of my book recipes don’t seem to mention some steps that, I’m guessing, by that point are probably supposed to be ‘too obvious.’ In particular today, it didn’t mention doing anything to the bread in the couche while proofing besides covering, but I can tell afterwards that I should have gotten some spray oil on top since it developed a thin skin of sorts (you can sort of see the effect of it in my slicing picture).

20150615_180057I am DEFINITELY making sure to de-gas/punch down all my bulk fermented hearth/gas-reliant breads halfway through their first rising process from now on. It’s hard to definitively say if the final result in crumb was any better than the ones I didn’t de-gas, though it looks like it did indeed have a better collection of slightly bigger holes (still not as awesome as proper baguettes though), but what I CAN say is that there was an obvious difference in how well I could shape it while it kept its bulk, which you can easily see in the previous pictures of the shaped and proofed batards/baguettes (the de-gassed loaf is the one on the right).

20150616_222702Any Thoughts?

I’m so gonna use half of one of my loaves to make a ‘Fool’s Gold Sandwich,’ (see my Twitter for a couple other pictures of this) something I just learned about in a video concerning Celebrity Foods. Elvis Presley’s TRUE love, it’s a loaf of French bread, re-baked until brown and crusty, brushed with butter, sliced in half with the soft insides scooped up. The cavities are then filled with peanut butter on one side, some sort of jam on the other, and piled with bacon. Yeah that’ll send me to my grave a bit early, and it’ll be damn worth it.

20150615_180137Overall this has seemed to be one of my most promising bread results yet; not perfect, but darn good. Really makes me curious to try recipes outside of the book though, see how much the results are shaped by me vs the formulae.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

The hearth breads seem to be cozying up to me a bit more… like a cat

p3: Buckwheat Pita

20150608_171155#8, Buckwheat Pita

Think I may have mentioned, I have a bunch of buckwheat flour that I need to put to use, this after buying it for those Buckwheat Crepes a while back. Was hoping I could just find a fun and unique bread recipe to use this with… well, considering it’s completely gluten free, that adventure was basically shot to hell. All ‘breads’ that use this as the sole or majority are… barely breads, they’re like simple soda breads or beer breads, only the texture looks even worse. No kneading, shaping, proofing, etc, since… well, no gluten. There was one that seemed promising, with yeast and a simple rise, and I debated doing that, though the final product looked like a pile of… um, brown sticky expletive. Though to be fair, I think that may have been the writer’s fault, not the recipe (HAH! Screw you gluten free people!… I’m sorry).

T0713_buckwheat-pittes_001hen I came across a recipe for Buckwheat Pita Bread, a fun concept, and one that could actually yield some plausible results! It certainly looked good in the pictures, almost like a regular pita just with different colors, pressed flat and such. So I thought I’d go ahead and explore it!

Now, I will actually make note of some results before going into recipe. Firstly, again since there’s no way to knead it to smoothness, this really is quite the sticky dough! It gets better after the yeast ‘rises’ for an hour, but it’s still there. They use the technique of rolling between parchment paper, which is definitely better than on the counter, but transfer to the cooking surface still isn’t ideal. As such I decided to try out a few different methods to get my ideal transfer and cooking surface.

The recipe calls for sprinkling with polenta after rolling, which I’m coming to realize really doesn’t do anything for the situation. I brushed each side with olive oil before rolling, since the recipe also calls for brushing the oil in the skillet for cooking; that was certainly better, still not perfect, and I’m not exactly positive I actually liked having that oil on my personal cooking surfaces of the day. But my third experiment was practically perfect in its result! I’ve got it listed in the recipe.

20150608_190033Also, I mentioned a cast iron skillet, which is what the blogger used for his pita, and I’m sure can certainly be used to quite success for others. At the time however, and I’m now realizing is quite the coincidence, I had my electric crepe machine out from the day previous; considering how hot that gets, thought it’d be a fun thing to try using instead! And no, no it did not turn out that well (though it’s really hard to judge with these things… damn gluten-free, I shall vow to avoid it the rest of my life!), but I was running a secondary plan for half of my dough anyways, so no worries. A baking stone in a 500F oven did just the trick, so I can stop with the explanation talk and get to the recipe.

Recipe
375ml Lukewarm Water
10g Dry Yeast
500g Buckwheat Flour + extra for dusting
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tb Olive Oil

Directions

  1. Combine Water and Yeast, let sit 10-15 minutes to activate20150608_171459
  2. While this is happening, mix Flour, Sea Salt, and Oil. Once yeast is cloudy and activated, mix that in, working slowly until it all comes together into a dough (will be sticky)20150608_172826
  3. Cover with plastic, let rise for 1 hour20150608_184658
  4. Divide dough into 6 pieces (or just scoop out whatever sized chunk you want really), roll each piece into a ball and pat to a disk shape in your hand20150608_184955
  5. Set onto a piece of parchment paper, generously dusting each side of the dough with more buckwheat flour. Cover with another piece of parchment and gently roll out, rotating a bit with each roll, so it turns into a ¼” flat disk20150608_185210
  6. Poke a few holes with a fork and set aside20150608_190904
  7. Heat a cast iron skillet, or preheat oven with baking stone inside to 500F20150608_190041
  8. When ready, brush pan (perhaps stone too) with a bit of extra olive oil, and carefully transfer pita. Cook a few minutes, until lightly poofed up and the side has gained some color, flip and cook the same amount of time20150608_191709
  9. Transfer to cooling rack or plate and hold aside for use20150608_223128
  10. Brush with butter or oil while hot for a uniquely buckwheat experience, or let cool and carefully slice horizontally down the middle (helps to cut circle into two halves first) and stuff with your preferred fillings. Enjoy

What Have I Learned This Time?

My rolling skills are still shitty, though I did get a couple decent round guys going at one point.

Buckwheat doughs really do SUCK… can only make them not-sticky if you add a lot of the ‘flour,’ otherwise you’re stuck with sticky and little to no real rise.

20150608_190229The value of experimentation and persistence in solving problems… I mean, I already knew that, just had yet to apply it here, as mentioned with the whole not-so-easy rolling-out-and-transferring thing.

For sticky dough, if I need to transfer (and don’t NEED to worry too much about exact shape keeping), shaping on parchment paper first and then lifting and upending from the paper works really well! Sort of like pitas and other flatbreads in Indian that use that pillow thing to slap on the inside of a tandoor.

Any Thoughts?

If you DO make these, they really are best hot, with butter or something, when that funky buckwheat flavor is just upfront and the dough is sort of tender. Cold, it really isn’t much to compare to a regular pita, sort of chewy/dry-ish (and that was an interesting line, cuz they either feel like it’s still dough or just plain ‘dry’), and are really only good for cooking into pita chips or dipping, for heavy soakage, in a soup or stew of some sort.

Found it interesting that the original recipe person said he wanted to make them thinner since this thickness felt chewy, which I can definitely see. But I just cannot see getting thinner and then transferring to a pan, no matter how much buckwheat flour or whatever technique one uses. And if anything, even this thick it’s hard as hell to slice down the middle to make a sandwich pocket; so I’d actually rather make them THICKER, hope it solves its usefulness issues.

Though very likely I’ll just make an all-flour pita next time. I am very interested in it now! But that’ll be quite a while in the future, I wanna go back to my book for the next few recipes.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

No, but to be fair I’m pretty sure this one just has a bad attitude.

p2: Clafoutis

The Sweet

7-SAV150-95_Clafoutis-750x750I have been semi-obsessed with a certain dessert ever since I read “On Food and Cooking’s” chapter on fruit; in particular, when they discuss cherries, making mention of a baked dish that took advantage of the pits to extract extra flavor from the cherries. This dessert was Clafoutis, what at first seemed an eggy cake filled with whole cherries, though I’ve come to learn is so much more. For I’ve tried making this twice before, I came to learn the ‘batter’ for this is quite… unique. Not special or different or difficult, but there’s nothing quite in the realm of its structure ya know? It’s very custardy, but it’s thicker than flan and other egg-milk dishes; it’s definitely more batter-based, less eggy, than a quiche; thicker like a pancake batter, but with that smooth creamy consistency. Many related it similar to crepe batter but with more eggs. When you try it, you’ll know, but there’s really no other common custard to properly relate it to.

And this is made exclusively to be filled in a pan, covered layers of whole cherries or thick cuts of fruit, and baked until a golden, crispy layer has remained on top. I myself have yet to achieve this, and need to redeem myself with a third attempt here, for this project.

The name comes from clafotís or clafir, a term used in the Occitan language, which centered in the Southern France/Northern Spain region, meaning ‘to fill.’ During the 1800’s, the dish spread throughout the rest of France, but its origin of ‘identity’ is purely Limousin, which is situated in the southern-central area (and where the romance language was quite popular). This is the one that traditionally contains cherries; which is what any TRUE clafoutis should use, proved by the fact that any dish of the same batter using OTHER fruits is properly called a ‘flaugnarde.’ Despite the lack in specific origin, the Limousin are highly proud of this dish they’ve created; in fact, when L’Acadèmie Francais officially categorized it under as a sort of ‘fruit flan,’ well… let’s just say the people got rather pissed. So they ended up getting forced into changing it to “a cake with fruit.”

As with many dishes found in France, for something so simple as cherries with batter, getting it right can be quite the task. We’ll see if I’m finally up for it.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

You know, I just realized that I ended up listing this recipe’s ‘Lecture Corner’ in the same style as my OTHER French Recipe Posts! Since I’ve already finished writing it all and am too lazy to redo it, guess we’ll just pretend it’s structured different because this recipe is ‘special,’ haha.

20150529_173042

Cherries: Small, tart ‘Griottes’ are the cherries of choice in France. No luck here, but they are easily substituted out with a simple Black Cherry, which gives that nice combo of sweet and tart for dessert use. But that’s not what we REALLY wanna talk about with cherries… what we REALLY wanna talk about is their pits. And yes, you must leave them in the cherries while they bake into the cake. Oh, you can pit them beforehand, but it will not taste as good… just like cheap, simple baked cherries in this custard, nothing more or nothing less.

For the seeds and pits of stone fruits, like cherries and apricots and plums, contain and enzyme which, besides producing EXTREMELY trace amounts of cyanide (which has sparked much issue towards the idea of using them in cooking/infusing, which is really useless considering the mass amount of things made from them that would need consumption to even feel ill), also produces the characteristic almond extract/marzipan aromas. In fact, it’s mainly stone fruit pits that are used to make these extracts. Cherries in particular also contain amygdalen, benzaldehyde and eugenol, compound/molecule essences of almond and clove. When heated, all of these aromas increase, expand, and flush throughout the cherry, and potentially anything next to it. Thus the flavor resulting in something like, say, a baked custard with whole cherries studded throughout is transformed into a wafting aromatic exploration of deep fruit and almond ambrosia. Or something like that.

Like blueberries in muffins or chocolate chips in banana bread, we also have to ask the question of how we add the fruit and batter. Does the fruit go in first, batter on top, or toss the fruit on top of the batter in hopes of getting some better elevation/distribution? Whether it actually works, I find I don’t necessarily care, as the thickness of the custard is relatively the same as the fruit layers, and I don’t see any danger in them sitting at the bottom for this. I’d say the use of making sure they’re a bit higher is to give a better top/presentation. Though, interesting note, I read Julia Child’s recipe for this, and a unique technique she offers is starting with just a thin layer of batter on the bottom, baking that until it’s mostly set, and THEN adding the cherries and rest of the batter. I am so NOT trying this, because again I don’t care and I don’t want to worry about a layer of over-cooked custard under my perfectly set batter, but it’s a fun one to consider. There’s a particular cake named after tree layers that uses the technique, but with a single thin layer of batter at a time.

20150601_173730To Booze or Not to Booze: There are a lot of clafoutis out there that make absolutely no mention of adding Kirsch, using just vanilla extract instead. Throw those formulae in the trash, because all TRUE clafoutis have kirsch. Every single time that I’ve read or heard one from any recipe that seemed old, classic, traditional, or in any way overly French, the classic Cherry Brandy or Liqueur is involved. This is either added to the batter, macerated in the cherries beforehand (along with some of the sugar), or a combo of the two. Myself, I’m going for the combo, since I want to infuse more of that deep cherry flavor into the fruit itself, make up for what don’t seem like the most ideal cherries to me, as well as use it as the flavor base of the cake itself. Kirschwasser is the name of the game of course, a good bottle that I still had enough left over for the cake AND shots afterward, with those beautifully developed-through-distillation flavors of cherries and bitter almond/marzipan, a treat from those aromatic pit compounds mentioned earlier that only TRUE cherry brandy will let you experience.

Note, if you don’t have access to a nice kirsch/wasser, any decent brandy (cognac/Armagnac preferred) will do, potentially even rum for a fun twist, ideally mixed with some cherry and/or almond liqueur for added flavor.

Pan: Firstly, low and wide is usually the key; one is looking for 2 cherry layers max quite often, baked into a large custard-cake. Usually done in one of those classic ceramic, large ramekin-y vessels. You know, the white ones with the curved outside that look all fancy. I have seen this cooked in a big cast iron pot as well, and I was very tempted to try it with mine… but the one I have is a bit Dutch Oven type, so much empty space and pan sides sticking up from the custard, it made me nervous. Plus I worried how long it would take to absorb the oven temperature vs a regular ceramic. I wanted to make sure that I got those browned effects, and both of these aspects seemed potentially counterproductive to that.

Milk: I read somewhere that, similar to crepe batter (which seriously this custard resembles so much doesn’t it?), many ‘masters’ or just old French cooks traditionally heat up the milk before adding. This should help develop some flavor with the eggs (gotta love those warm milk custardy flavors), and probably helps with starch gelatinization/integration even further. Or something on those lines (you know I’m too lazy for THAT kind of research).

In some recipes I’ve been finding after making this, I’ve found use of cream or half and half instead of milk. I put no preference over the choices, in fact I’d like to try it one day, but today I almost feel like milk, leave more flour for thickening and to develop that crusty edge I’m so desiring.

Clafoutis
500g/18 oz Black Cherries, de-stemmed
3 Tb Kirsch or Kirschwasser
100g/4oz Sugar
125g/4½ oz Flour
Pinch of Salt
300ml/1¼ cup Milk
3 Eggs

Directions

  1. Toss Cherries (NOT pitted) with 1 Tb of Kirsch and 50g of Sugar, leave to sit and macerate (turning every so often) for at least 30 minutes20150601_173654
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. Combine remaining sugar, Flour, and Salt in separate bowl20150601_174350
  4. Heat milk to a light scald on the stove, hot without simmering, and add along with the well beaten Eggs and remaining Kirsch to the flour mixture, whisking in a bit at a time until it turns into a smooth, thick batter20150601_180624
  5. Toss cherries into a wide, low, and very well-buttered casserole dish, evenly covering the bottom in a piled layer20150601_181119
  6. Pour over the batter so it comes close to the lip of the pan20150601_181237
  7. Transfer to oven, baking at LEAST 35-40 minutes, until the center is set, the edges have rise, and the top is colored with a light golden brown20150601_185108
  8. Remove, slicing and serving hot or, traditionally, leaving to cool until lukewarm, garnishing with a dust of powdered sugar20150601_190748
  9. Enjoy with some kirsch, and perhaps a dollop of whipped, iced, or other sweet cream garnish one has on hand

My Thoughts

Okay, I think I finally got it how I want it! I was a bit worried too, since it didn’t have any of that browning or crustiness when I checked at the 40 minute mark. But cooked a bit longer and it started to develop, a little on top and around the sides with that beautiful lift! Still didn’t get that particular cakey-ness that I envisioned and hoped it would have, but this has officially shown me that, indeed, a proper clafoutis never will.

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What it WILL get is a thick, firm but tender layer of custard with some crispy edges and tops on it. I’ll admit and say I think I may have cooked it a couple minutes longer than IDEAL, with more browned sides and bottom bits sticking to the pan than I thought (note to self, don’t judge by how much is on TOP), but still fully delicious. And the cherries… hot from the oven, popped into the mouth, super soft and with that almost floral burst of aromatics clearly containing an underlying almond/marzipan note, just like how it’s supposed to. Let me just say, all those people online who bitch about how the annoying purists leave the pits in is rather useless, saying to just add almond extract or purely ignore and just leave the cherries because ‘who wants to eat around a pit, waaaaahhhhh,’ don’t know crap about what they’re talking about. There’s a clear, elevated difference, and I’ve found no issue in letting the pit pop from its fleshy constraints in my mouth to be spit back on the plate or some side bowl. Not if it equals the aromatic extra experience that I’ve found here.

And I can see why many say this is best served lukewarm instead of hot, for the texture and the cherries, which release more of those deliciously fruity flavors. Though I still say there’s nothing better than something hot out of the oven, creamy and flavorful, with those heady pops of aromatic chemicals when chewing on those stone fruit. Either way, I am very happy and satisfied with the results. Something tells me I’ll be making this again (the mother seems quite intent about it).

Possible Pairings

There really is nothing better than a nice, chilled shotglass or snifter of Kirsch or Kirschwasser next to this. I mean, cherries and cherries, almond flavors with almond flavors (they both have it), you use it in the dish, and it just tastes damn good. Trust me, when you nail a clafoutis in such a way that makes you happy like this, there’s no better reward than a delicious bit of cherry brandy (assuming you’re the kind to drink good liquor straight, which I am).

To a similar note, something like an Amaretto, either chilled over ice or made into a cocktail (perhaps shaken with brandy?), would be another delicious choice. There are also plenty of emulsified ‘egg liqueurs’ (they’re basically more custardy cream liqueurs) like Advocat that would highlight the custardy flavors and textures.

And as for wine, I wish I could name something great from the Limousin region, but they sadly have very little wine industry nowadays (they used to, sadly, but it was devastated during a certain period of disease along with the rest of France and didn’t recover as well), so what they have, though delicious, is quite rare. I knew the name was familiar though, as the oak trees are famously used for some of the most prized barrels for aging wine and Cognac.

Blanquette_de_LimouxWhat I would definitely want to serve this with is a nice glass of bubbly, some simple and refreshing sparkling wine, perhaps a Cremant from some southern region just for fun. A Cremant de Alsace, perhaps a rose, from the region that borders France with Germany could have a certain cultural perfection, but I have a ‘Blanquette de Limoux’ which I’m saving for a certain savory dish that I wouldn’t mind playing around with here. It’s from the exact opposite region, the very southern border, but it should have a great fruity focus and a touch of sweetness. But the great combo of tart acids and frizzy bubbles should cut through the custard nicely, and those almost-toasty/yeasty flavors mixed with those almond notes… I like the idea.