Clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee), a simple French custard-cake, is the perfect foil for the fresh fruit and berries of summer. Formulas vary wildly from one end of the spectrum (custard) to the other (cake). I love trying them all, and I shared the following two versions with you already:
- Fresh Apricot Ginger Peasant Cake is on the cake side of the spectrum, with a decidedly chewy texture, which makes it everyone’s favorite. The formula is unusual in that it contains no egg.
- Spiced Green Apple Lemon Clafouti is on the custard side of the spectrum. It rises high around the edges, much like a Dutch Baby. However, it is thicker than a Dutch Baby and the center more closely resembles a firm, tender custard than a pancake. The formula is unusual in that it contains no fat.
What I am sharing with you today is a chewy, cake-style clafouti with a sweet-tart topping of lime- and vanilla-scented fresh rhubarb. I always hesitated adding rhubarb to a clafouti, because it releases so much liquid while baking that the dish was bound to be soggy. I couldn’t see any way around this, other than to cook the rhubarb to a mush before adding it to the batter. And that of course didn’t sound like a viable solution either.
But then, Paula Wolfert came to the rescue recently in her inspired new cookbook, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook. In it, she describes a way of treating rhubarb for a custart tart that allows you to extract the juice without cooking the rhubarb to a mush. The rhubarb pieces hold their shape while the tart bakes, which is just the effect I want for this clafouti.
INGREDIENT NOTE The success of this dish rests squarely on the quality of the rhubarb. Buy crisp, tender stalks from a local grower, in season. In the Northwest, rhubarb season now extends from early spring to almost fall, thanks to numerous small growers who provision local farmers markets.
SERVING NOTE Because this cake is so simple to make and not overly sweet, it makes an excellent addition to a breakfast or brunch menu. It’s also wonderful with afternoon tea, perhaps the medium-bodied, floral, fruity No. 64 Darjeeling Singtom, from Oregon tea purveyor, Steven Smith of Smith Tea.
Lime & Vanilla Scented Rhubarb Clafouti
There is possibly no easier or quicker cake to make than clafouti. However, in this rendition, you must macerate the rhubarb with sugar the night before, so that it releases its considerable quantity of juice. What you get in return is rhubarb that will not turn to mush when you bake it. Definitely a fair trade.
You will notice that this clafouti formula contains no egg. Thus, it doesn’t rise as much as some formulas. The advantage though is the wonderfully chewy texture.
Serving Note Clafouti is best eaten warm, shortly after baking.
3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1- by ½-inch pieces
6 tablespoons sugar
½ vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
finely grated zest of 1 large lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup king Arthur, unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop lime oil, optional
powdered sugar in a shaker
- Put the rhubarb in a medium-size bowl and add the sugar. With a small sharp knife, scrape the seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean into the bowl and add the bean as well. Add the lime zest. With a flexible spatula, gently combine the rhubarb with the other ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, remove the vanilla bean, rinse, dry, and use again later for another purpose. Pour the liquid from the rhubarb into a saucepan. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce to a syrup, about 4 tablespoons.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add the rhubarb, and toss to coat with syrup. Stir in the lime juice. Let cool to room temperature.
- To prepare the baking dish: Locate a 10½-inch diameter ceramic pie dish with a 4-6 cup capacity. (Another shape of shallow baking dish with the same capacity will work too.) Pour in the melted butter and tip the dish from side to side to cover all of it with butter. You may need to use a brush to lightly coat the edges of the dish with butter. Reserve.
- To prepare the cake batter: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, remaining 1 cup sugar, and baking powder.
- With a wooden spoon, beat in the milk, vanilla, and lime oil to produce a smooth batter. Don’t over beat. However, the batter should not have too many lumps either.
- Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish.
- Place rhubarb and syrup evenly over the batter, leaving a 3/4–inch open border of batter around the outside edges (this will allow the batter to rise at the edges).
- Place clafouti on a rack in the upper third of a preheated 375° oven. Set an edged baking sheet on the rack below to catch any overflow.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the sides are puffed and the top is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cook for 15 minutes before cutting.
To serve, cut into wedges and arrange on serving plates. If desired, dust each serving with powdered sugar and serve with a lime wedge.
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Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.