Friday, November 5, 2010

Pear Clafouti

I enjoy reading memoirs, especially those associated with food.  One of my very favorites is On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis, author of a number of cookbooks.  It is about her time spent living and cooking in a French town.  The book contains recipes, many of which we have enjoyed time and again.  

Three perfectly ripened pears sent me to her recipe for a pear and honey clafoutis.  It's a recipe given to her by an elderly resident of Louviers.  While clafoutis is a common dessert in Normandy, this recipe, the elderly lady told her, does not produce an ordinary one.  Indeed, it doesn't.  The clafoutis that I've had and made in the past have a custard-like quality.  I would describe this one as a very moist and light cake.  I hope you'll try it because it is delicious.

Pear and Honey Clafoutis from Susan Loomis with a slight addition (nutmeg) by me

3 large pears, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, cored and cut into sixths
1/3 cup of honey
4 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 cup whole milk (I mixed 1 % and half and half)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter and flour a 10 inch round baking dish.

Arrange the pears in an attractive pattern in the baking dish and drizzle them evenly with the honey.

Separate 3 of the eggs.  In a large bowl mix the flour, all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the nutmeg and the salt.  Whisk together the milk, 3 egg yolks, and 1 whole egg, reserving the 3 egg whites.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the milk/egg yolk mixture into the well.  Gently whisk the dry ingredients in to make a smooth batter.  Quickly but thoroughly whisk in the melted butter.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with a small pinch of salt until they are foamy.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue whisking until soft peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter, then pour over the pears.  

Bake in the center of the oven until the clafoutis is puffed and golden--about 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Make a caramel by heating the the remaining tablespoon of sugar with 1 teaspoon of water in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly distribute the sugar, until the mixture turns a deep golden brown--about 3 to 5 minutes.  Don't stir.  When the sugar is caramelized, drizzle it over the clafoutis.  Let it harden for a few minutes.  Slice and serve.