A cobbler by any other name

By Bill Colvard - bcolvard@MtAiryNews.com
A blueberry clafoutis (some would say flaugnarde) is served up with some freshly whipped cream. - Bill Colvard | The News
This blueberry clafoutis has not been dusted with powdered sugar, as the freshly picked blueberries were already extremely sweet. - Bill Colvard | The News

As if it’s not difficult enough to figure out the difference between a cobbler and a sonker — a distinction that, seemingly, no two people in Surry County can agree on — there are crisps and grunts and slumps and crumbles and buckles and pan dowdies and brown Bettys to further confuse the matter of summer fruit desserts.

Whether you want to show off summer’s bounty to best advantage or you’ve got a bunch of fruit that is not getting any younger, the choices are endless.

And if it’s possible to become jaded to all of those fruity delights, one has only to look across the pond and see that France has a couple of other contenders in the fruit dessert game.

And we’re not talking about fancy tarts or pastries either. We’re talking about simple desserts any home cook can handle easily. Cookbooks and food shows will coo about how “elegant” these desserts are and by elegant, they mean French, but a quick look at a recipe or a photo will show you that this is just a gussied up cobbler. And not all that gussied up, at that. A sonker by any other name may not be a cobbler but that doesn’t make it any more “elegant.”

First, there’s clafoutis, pronounced more or less as “CLA-foo-tee.” For a more exact pronunciation, google “clafoutis pronounce” and you’ll get a 15-second video of a real French lady saying it over and over on an endless loop. After a minute or two, you’ll be able to over-pronounce it as well as she does.

Now some folks will tell you that proper clafoutis is only made with black cherries and the same dessert made with any other fruit or even any other kind of cherry should instead be called a flaugnarde, pronounced “FLO-nyard.” The French lady will pronounce it for you if you give her a google.

And those same people will tell you that a proper clafoutis is made with the pits still in the cherries. The pits supposedly give a nice almond taste to the cherries. Don’t listen to them. This is how teeth get chipped and why almond extract was invented.

Here in the US of A, we’ve got a lot of names for desserts made with fruit and some of them sound pretty funny but we don’t have a different name for each kind of fruit.

And a lot of other people, even French people, must feel the same way because they call them all clafoutis. You can too. Or if you want to eliminate the pretension factor altogether, just call it a fruit flan. The fruit is baked in a flan-like batter so that’s accurate. But the batter is also very similar to pancake batter which gets into the realm of German pancakes and Dutch babies, but that’s another country and another discussion better suited for apple season.

Clafoutis and flaugnarde both use a thin pancake-like batter. You can whisk it by hand or use a food processor or blender. Whatever you’d rather clean up. And when it’s all said and done, it’s hard to say if you have a pudding, or a custard, or some kind of soggy cake, but you can say it’s delicious. And worth adding to your summer repertoire, if it’s not in there already.

Right now, thanks to the wet spring and early summer, blueberries are coming in thick and looking really good. A nice flaugnarde or clafouti is a good way to use some up. You can practice your pronunciation while you pick blueberries.

Several recipes are included below because the flour and milk ratio is pretty consistent across recipes but the number of eggs and amount of sugar varies greatly. More eggs give a more custard-y result and fewer is more like a pancake. Eggs also give more of a puffed rise but that collapses pretty soon so don’t feel bad when it happens. Once you find a recipe you like, stick with it and just switch out the fruit as the season changes.

As far as sugar, bear in mind the sweetness of your fruit. Fully ripened on the bush, very sweet blueberries need a lot less sugar than tarter raspberries. Let your fruit guide you.

And don’t forget to sprinkle your finished clafoutis with powdered sugar. It’s much more ‘elegant’ that way, don’t ya know?

Blueberry Clafoutis

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 1/4 cups milk

2/3 cup white sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Generously butter a 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Pour blueberries into prepared baking dish. Blend milk, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt in a blender until batter is smooth. Pour batter over blueberries and gently shake to remove any air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven until puffed and center is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool until clafoutis deflates and is just warm.

Blueberry clafouti

3 cups blueberries

2 tbsp. crystallized ginger

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

1 cup whole milk

3 eggs

1/2 cup flour

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter 10-inch deep dish pie plate or 9-inch square shallow baking dish. Sprinkle blueberries, ginger and 1 tbsp. of the sugar in bottom of prepared dish. Pour milk into blender container. Add eggs, flour, cinnamon, vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup sugar; cover. Blend on high speed until well mixed. Pour batter over fruit. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Berry Clafoutis

This recipe has

Butter for pan

1 and 1/4 cups whole or 2 percent milk

⅔ cup granulated sugar, divided

3 eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

⅛ tsp. salt

1 cup flour

1 pint (2 generous cups) blackberries or blueberries, rinsed and well drained

Powdered sugar in a shaker

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a medium-size flameproof baking dish at least 1 1/2 inches deep. Place the milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour in a blender. Blend at top speed until smooth and frothy, about 1 minute. Pour a 1/4-inch layer of batter in the baking dish. Turn on a stove burner to low and set dish on top for a minute or two, until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from heat.

Spread berries over the batter and sprinkle on the remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter and smooth with the back of a spoon. Place in the center of the oven and bake about 50 minutes, until top is puffed and browned and a tester plunged into its center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.

(Clafoutis need not be served hot, but should still be warm. It will sink slightly as it cools.)

Apricot Clafoutis

2 Tbsp. butter

1 pound apricots, halved and pitted

2 oz. slivered almonds

2/3 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

3 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1-1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter shallow baking dish. Arrange apricots, cut surface down in single layer. Add almonds. Whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, salt, eggs. Whisk in flour, add milk. Pour mixture over apricots. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over surface. Dot with butter. Bake for 40 minutes til golden.

Cherry Clafoutis

1-1/4 pounds sweet cherries

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/8 tsp. almond extract (otpional)

1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided

1-1/3 cups milk

Softened butter, for preparing the baking dish

Heat the oven to 375° F. Grease a 2-quart shallow baking dish liberally with butter. Stem and pit the cherries and lay them in a single layer in the baking dish. Working with a stand blender or an immersion blender and a bowl, blend the eggs, flour, extracts, 1/2 cup sugar, and milk together until smooth. Pour the batter over the cherries and sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Bake the clafoutis until the custard is just set; a knife poked in the center should emerge relatively clean after about 45 minutes. Serve the clafoutis warm, at room temperature or cold. It can be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated overnight.

Flaugnarde with Pears

3 large eggs

3/4 cup cake flour

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup warm milk

1 tbsp. dark rum

3 tbsp. superfine sugar

2 ripe medium Bartlett pears— peeled, cored and thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cake and all-purpose flours, salt and 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining 3/4 cup of milk, the rum and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450° and coat a deep 9-inch cake pan with half of the butter. Pour the batter into the pan and arrange the pear slices on top. Dot with the remaining butter and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400° and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until the flaugnarde is puffed and deeply golden. Let cool for 2 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and serve.

A blueberry clafoutis (some would say flaugnarde) is served up with some freshly whipped cream.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/web1_Clafoutis-1.jpgA blueberry clafoutis (some would say flaugnarde) is served up with some freshly whipped cream. Bill Colvard | The News

This blueberry clafoutis has not been dusted with powdered sugar, as the freshly picked blueberries were already extremely sweet.
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/web1_Clafoutis-2.jpgThis blueberry clafoutis has not been dusted with powdered sugar, as the freshly picked blueberries were already extremely sweet. Bill Colvard | The News

By Bill Colvard