Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Long Live Clafouti"

I love Spago. The food is great and it's one of the best places in Vegas to people watch. Wolfgang Puck has always had a great pastry chef there ... for a long time it was Mary Bergin. A few years ago she left Spago and opened a tiny restaurant near my office - and I loved it. There was a small counter for lunch specials and a tiny bakery in the front of the cafe full of all kinds of delicious treats. I would stop in once a week or so . . . one afternoon she had a fresh berry clafoutis on the menu. It was so delicious I couldn't stop thinking about it. When I'd see her I always mentioned what a fan I was of her clafouti and let her know I wondered when she'd make it again. Months later she autographed her cookbook for me . . . inside it says "long live clafouti". Here's an adapted version of Ina's recipe. Substitute pears with the traditional cherries, or make it with plums or apples.

Pear Clafouti

1 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 t. almond extract
2 to 3 firm but ripe Bartlett pears
Confectioners' sugar
Whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 10 by 3 by 1 1⁄2-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar.

Beat the eggs and the 1⁄3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and almond extract. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners' sugar and with whipped cream.