Wednesday, August 3, 2011

brown butter cherry & berry clafoutis

i know. i know. another thing you have to bake.

but! i made this in our toaster oven, so if you have one of those, you are golden. if you don't, you still have to turn on the regular oven like a regular sucker. but i think it will all seem worth it when you are snarfing delicious custardy fruity clafoutis (kind of rhymes with fruity). the toaster oven is very handy, though, and doesn't heat up your house at all. it is a miracle appliance! i got mine on craigslist for cheaps.

clafoutis has lots of eggs relative to flour, so it is more eggy and dense than, say, a cake. it is not too sweet and is tasty with either ice cream for dessert or with yogurt for breakfast. i guess you could have it with ice cream but for breakfast, but i don't roll that way.

regardless, it's a great use for cherries, which are great right now. the other benefit of using cherries in clafoutis is that it's traditional to leave the pits in, which is perfect for lazy people like me. just warn the people eating it so they don't break a tooth or whatever. i may be in law school, but i can't help you with that one. i also used blackberries for this one, since they are doing all sorts of exciting things in my backyard. well, not all sorts. i guess really they are just ripening. still exciting.

although the fruit parts of this clafoutis are great, the star of the whole thing is really the brown butter. see, you have to melt the butter for this anyway, and generally if i am going to go to the trouble of dirtying a pan (omg we don't have a microwave. i don't miss it, except for its milk-heating properties for coffee), i feel like i might as well make brown butter.

butter is undoubtedly good as is. one of my family's little stories is about the time my grandmother came into the kitchen to find my aunt sitting on the table. she was enthusiastically eating butter from the dish and looked up without a hint of contrition, saying "you know what's good? BUTTER!"

if she'd had access to brown butter, who knows if they'd ever have been able to tear her away. it is like butter mixed with caramel mixed with ambrosia. it is nutty and complex and divine. it makes your house smell like betty crocker's apron in heaven.

anyway. all that by way of saying that yes, you could use regular melted butter, but i would think less of you. or rather, you would think less of you. luckily, it is easy: put a stick of butter (1/2 cup) in a pan and make it melt. then just keep it on the heat until the little bits of milk solids sink to the bottom. they will start browning. the main thing is to stir it occasionally and not let the solids totally burn. you want them quite brown, though:

see? so brownedy-delicious! it seriously smells amazing at this point. i like to just carry it around in the cup and smell it for awhile. this is because you don't want it too hot when you add it to the eggs/sugar mixture and also because it smells so good.

you will have to set it down briefly to mix the eggs and sugar, however. i do this with my stand mixer (why yes, i am fancy!), but you could use a hand mixer or a sturdy whisk as well. just take 3 eggs and 1/2 cup of sugar and mix them until they are thicker and lighter and fluffy - like 3 minutes or so? it depends on how fast you are mixing.

then once the butter is cool enough, add it slowly to the eggs. i do this while the mixer is running, but i don't think it will ruin everything to do it and then mix more. then add a cup of flour and mix again. then add a cup of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a couple of tablespoons or less of booze, if desired. i used brandy, but rum or whisky or whiskey would also be good. you could also add a pinch of salt if your butter was unsalted.

then you just pour it over 2 cups-ish of fruit that you've already put in a buttered pan. this pan is 8" in diameter and is 2" tall and it worked great, but there are lots of conversion things if you have a pan of a different stature. bake it at 400 for about 45 minutes. i wasn't sure about the toaster oven, because i haven't had it that long and i don't usually bake in it, but it seemed to work well. i ended up increasing the heat to 425 after half an hour because i was nervous, but i don't think it was necessary. it's never been necessary when i've made clafoutis in a regular oven.

in a regular oven, i would definitely keep it at 400 and start checking it after half an hour or so. you want it mostly solid, but a little jiggliness or softness in the center is okay. again, it isn't really a cakelike texture you're going for.

this is so good and quick and easy. it is definitely worth ovening for, but a toaster oven makes it even easier. by the way, that potholder the pan is sitting on? my moms made it for me. she is good at knitting things. thanks, mom!

1/2 cup butter, melted, browned if smart
3 eggs, beaten with
1/2 cup sugar, add the butter, then
1 cup flour, then
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons or less dark liquor, if desired
pour over
2 cups fruit of your choice, in buttered pan
bake 30-45 minutes

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