“How do you pronounce it? Clay-foo-ti? Claw-foo-tay?” I quizzed my partner AJ and my friend Peter, both of whom speak French. I had taken the ever-so-practical Latin in high school (carpe diem!) in the long distance hopes that it would improve my SAT scored, thereby tricking an ivy league school into accepting me (it didn’t work, Brown rejected me – I shake my fist at you Rhode Island Ivy League School). Peter properly pronounced it “cla-foo-tee” to me and AJ corrected me as I mangled my mimicking (“not so nasal in the ‘cla’ Irvin” he gently reminded me, as I repeated it several times trying to get it right). I shrugged my shoulder, presented the Pear Bourbon Clafoutis and said, “Here’s a French dessert. Not very traditional, as the French version usually is made with black cherries, but then, I’m not a traditional sort of guy.” That seemed to work for them.
The pear clafoutis (which I later learned, via Wikipedia, should actually be called a flaugnarde, as only cherries are used in clafoutis, and no I don’t know how to pronounce that word either) came about as I had wanted to make something French to help celebrate what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday, even though her birthday was back in August. It’s funny too, as I had just gone to the fabulous Thermador Design and Experience Center around the time of Julia’s birthday and they have a long history with the culinary icon.
Turns out that Julia Child loved Thermador so much that she used their equipment in her PBS show and the Thermador oven in her kitchen is now enshrined in the Smithsonian, along with the rest of Julia’s kitchen. Thermador had flown a number of food bloggers down to their showroom in Southern California to work on their equipment and see their new induction stove top and let’s just say we were all smitten.
“I so want one of those…” whispered a fellow food blogger of mine, when the team at Thermador unveiled the shiny black cooking surface. I looked at her and nodded in agreement. In truth, pretty much ANYONE who cooked in the kitchen would want the new “Freedom Induction Stovetop.” I’ve worked with induction cooking before, but this stovetop was ridiculously awesome. With induction cooking, the pot itself actually generates the heat, not the surface. Which means it’s more energy efficient and safer. But unlike other induction stovetops which have circles on the surface to show you where you need to put the pot, the entire surface is induction ready, which means you can put the pot ANYWHERE on the surface and it will activate it. You can even use oddly shaped induction friendly pots and pans on the surface. How cool is that?
I couldn’t wait to play cook on it, and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, as I seared black pepper encrusted tuna on the stovetop, I felt like I was cooking on super cool iPad. The only way it would be cooler is if I could surf the internet on the Freedom Induction Stovetop while cooking on it. Now that would be cool (though probably not very safe, as I’d burn all my food while I instagrammed and tweeted).
The food bloggers that Thermador brought down to the center all seemed to be having a great time as well. We made lunch together, in various teams, flipping crepes in the air like professionals and posing with their entrees. We even got an awesome food photography tutorial by Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple. You know, the typical food blogger sort of thing. But at the end of the day it was all about the food and all about the equipment that we used. I’ve always been a fan of the star shaped burner that Thermador uses, and their steaming oven kind of makes me feel really sad about my own little dinky oven that I have at home (I refer to it as an EZ Bake oven, it’s so cheap and flimsy). But maybe one of these days I’ll be a grownup and get a real oven. Or you know, maybe Santa will bring me one for Christmas. Ha!
Special thanks to Thermador for bringing me down to Irvine, California to visit their shiny new Thermador Design and Experience Center. Though they covered travel and expenses for the trip, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions stated above are my own.
Pear Bourbon Clafoutis (otherwise known as Flognarde aux Poires)
By Irvin Lin
A typical clafoutis is custard like batter dotted with black cherries and baked in the oven but you can use any sort of fruit, and Julia Child’s even suggests various fruits in her classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I took liberties with the traditional clafoutis recipe and gave it a flaky bottom crust, mostly because all I had in my kitchen was a removable bottom tart tin. That said, using a crust really helps with serving the clafoutis as it holds it shape more, but if you have a regular tart pan, by all means, skip the crust and just make the batter by itself. This recipe makes more batter than needed for the tart crust, so you may need to discard some of it but don’t be afraid to pour the batter up to the rim of the pre-baked tart crust (and don’t worry if a little spills over the edge). It will shrink a little when it bakes but it is really there just to help hold the form of the clafoutis.
2 tablespoon cold water
3 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 2/3 cups (230 g) all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks or 145 g) cold unsalted butter
4 medium Bosc, Anjou or Comice pears (680 g or 1 1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup bourbon
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 cup white sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (105 g) all purpose flour
heavy pinch of salt
1/4 cup (50 g) confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
10” tart pan with a removable bottom
pie weights, dry beans or uncooked rice
1. Make the tart crust by combining the water and bourbon together in a small liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle the salt in the liquid and stir to dissolve. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and ct the butter into 1/2 inch square chunks. Add the butter to the flour and toss to coat. Using your fingers and hands, flatten the chunks into thin disks and breaking the butter into small bits. Continue to blend the butter with your hands until the flour starts to clump together. Pour the bourbon water into the bowl and toss together with a large spatula until the dough forms. Knead the dough with your hands, pressing to make sure the liquid is evenly distributed. Gather the dough together to form a ball and flatten into a disk 3/4 inch thick. Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
2. Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 425˚F and roll the dough out into a 12” round circle. Fit into the tart pan, removing any overhanging dough from the tart and prick the bottom of the tart with a fork all over. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet or pizza pan with a rim. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the tart dough and fill with pie weights, dry beans or uncooked rice. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, and then remove the paper with the weights and put back in the oven for 5 minutes or until the top of the crust looks dry and the edges of the tart start to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the batter, maintaining the same temperature of the oven.
3. While the dough is baking, peel, core and chop the pears into 1/2 inch chunks. You should have about 3 cups of pears. Place the pears in a bowl and pour the bourbon over the pears. Let them soak until you are ready to use.
4. Place the milk and 3/4 cup of the sugar (reserving the other 1/4 cup for later) in a large mixing bowl. Split the vanilla bean (if using) and scrape the seeds out into the bowl. If you are using vanilla extract, add it in its place. Stir together to break up the beans and dissolve the sugar. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. The batter will look thin, and there might still be lumps, that’s ok. Whisk the eggs with the pinch of salt and add them to the batter. Whisk to incorporate.
5. Pour the pears into the baked and cooled tart shell, making sure any bourbon at the bottom of the bowl is also added to the baked shell. Evenly distribute the pears throughout the tart. Pour as much as the clafoutis batter as you can into the tart shell, all the way to the top of the baked shell (it’s ok if a little spills over, that’s why you placed the tart on a rimmed baking sheet). Place the pan in the oven and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until the edges of the tart are puffed brown and the center of the tart looks set. Pull the tart out of the oven, turn the heat up to 500˚F and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar over the top of the clafoutis. Place back in the oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes to melt the sugar. Pull out of the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before dusting with confectioners’ sugar and serving. You can also let the clafoutis cool to room temperature before serving, just don’t dust with the confectioner’s sugar or it will dissolve before you have a chance to eat.
Makes one 10” clafoutis, serves 8 to 10 people