“Pooh always liked a little something at eleven o’clock in the morning, and he was very glad to see Rabbit getting out the plates and mugs; and when Rabbit said, “Honey or condensed milk with your bread?” he was so excited that he said, “Both,” and then, so as not to seem greedy, he added, “but don’t bother about the bread please.” (from Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne)
Along with a Swiss Plum Tart or the Austrian pancake known as Kaiserschmarren, French Clafoutis is a dessert that sometimes steps outside that category and becomes part of the main meal. Clafoutis is a baked custard and fruit dish. There are some versions of it that are too sweet to be eaten anyway but as a dessert. But this Apricot Clafoutis is not one of them. The custard is a shade of sweetness that doesn’t overpower the natural sugar in the fruit and it is textured with ground almonds. With a slice of cheese, it is a meal.
But what sort of meal? Supper or brunch or a breakfast are all possibilities. And then, there is another institutionalised occasion for eating which suits Clafoutis well–and that is–Elevenses.
Elevenses is not a new notion. It is a custom so well-established in Anglophone cultures that it is not uncommon to find characters in popular literature partaking of it. Many will already be familiar with Elevenses from reading the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh. Tolkien’s Hobbits, too, work in Elevenses between Second Breakfast and Lunch.
Like afternoon tea, Elevenses comes in simple and fancy forms. In either variety, the mark of Elevenses is something to eat with something to drink–but not so much as would make a meal–at a time hovering between the hours for morning coffee and lunch, and an eclectic menu that is sweet or savoury or both.
Apricot Clafoutis (for a tart of 8 or 10 slices)
- 18 -20 apricots (not quite 1 and 1/2 pounds)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon of flour
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 400 milliliters of milk
- 3 and 1/2 ounces of butter (7 Tablespoons), softened, and some more butter for greasing the tart pan
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla
- 2/3 cup of powdered sugar
- some fine sugar, or regular sugar for sprinkling over the apricots
- 1 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon of ground almonds: (The photographed Clafoutis was made with packaged ground almonds, or you can make your own with shelled and peeled almonds by grinding them fine in a blender or food processor.)
- a flat-bottomed, straight-sided tart pan: (For even baking, a wide, shallow tart pan is better for two reasons: a thick Clafoutis is liable to overbake because the center takes longer to reach doneness and the depth of an American pie pan isn’t uniform. Glass or ceramic tart pans are easier to serve Clafoutis from than metal ones, but metal will be all right, too, if it doesn’t have a removeable bottom. The tart pan used for the Clafoutis in the photos measures 12-inches across and about 1 and 1/4 inches deep.)
- a small bowl for mixing the flour and baking powder together and 2 deep bowls and an electric hand mixer: a standing mixer will be fine, as well, but the hand mixer and bowl combination is more convenient
- a 4-cup sized liquid measuring cup is useful for adding the milk and flour mixture to the butter and sugar one
- a spatula
- a whisk
1. Make the Clafoutis batter before cutting the apricots. (The longer the batter sits–even for 2 or 3 hours– the better the resulting Clafoutis. But it is not essential to let it sit.) First, in a deep bowl, beat the softened butter. Then add the powdered sugar and the vanilla.
2. When the sugar and vanilla are both well mixed into the butter, add the ground almonds and 1 of the eggs. A spatula is useful for scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally to make sure that the entire mixture is well-combined.
3. In a little bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. In a second large, deep bowl, beat the two remaining eggs and add in the flour. Gradually add the milk to this mixture. Put it into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup (if you have one), and gradually add it to the butter, sugar and almonds, mixing it all the while. After all the milk is added, run a spatula around the sides of the bowl and then whisk the mixture to make sure everything is blended together well. Let the batter sit if you have the time and you feel like it.
then twist both halves in opposite directions at the same time and pull them apart:
5. Work the point of a knife under the pointed end of the pit to loosen it a little, and pull it out with your fingers:
6. Sprinkle some sugar over the apricots:
7. Pour the batter into the buttered tart pan:
8. Set the apricot halves in the batter, cut side down:
9. Bake the Clafoutis for 25 to 30 minutes:
The custard will set, but the juice from the fruit may still be bubbling in a way that looks as though the Clafoutis is not quite done, when in fact it is. Check an area of the custard that is not next to a piece of fruit for doneness:
10. Serve the Clafoutis directly from the pan:
11. Clafoutis is best when it is warm:
A Second Note: Apricot Clafoutis is part of the Occasional Menu: Elevenses for Ladies. The recipe is adapted from one in the French cooking journal, Cuisine Actuelle.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012