Oh Comfort Me, Winter Pear Clafoutis E.A.T. #42

 

Here….have a bite of this just out-of-the-oven warm pear clafoutis…with a cup of tea or coffee or maybe a small glass of champagne?  It’s very simple and sophisticated at the same time. For dessert or breakfast, or maybe just for lunch? Clafoutis is a baked French dessert with a flan-like custard and is traditionally made with cherries, but peaches, pears, apples and most berries are tasty as well.  You only live once so make all your bites special and delicious.

The past few weeks…really the past few months….or maybe even years I have approached my little food blog at times with doubt and uneasiness. Not because I have lost my love of cooking, nor my love of taking photographs of my results, but because so much of the friggin’ world has been turned on it’s head by malevolent politicians…the U.S. President in particular. The vile nature of the daily bombardment of not-well-chosen words by him has left me feeling helpless.Chattering away about food and recipes sometimes seems shallow and useless. Daily I have to remind myself to look at the good, the positive, the thoughtful and kind nature of life around me. So, this is what I am doing. It’s not so hard, but it does takes some mindfulness and intent. Cooking and blogging and reaching out via my blog is one of my mental “safety-nets”. We all need one….what’s yours? I would love to hear from you about this while your clafoutis is in the oven.

There are few recipes easier than this one. Ingredients, except for the fruit, get mixed together in the blender. Fruit gets sliced. Everything goes into a skillet or baking dish. Then baked. It is totally as easy-as-that.

Don’t forget what is important and beautiful in this crazy old world and do what you can to make it sane and delicious.

Oh Comfort Me, Winter Pear Clafoutis

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe, but firm pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon softened butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated or raw sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • powdered sugar for garnishing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Smear softened butter over the bottom and up sides of a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet or baking dish.
  3. Add milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt and flour to a blender and blend until smooth and frothy.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Gently top with pear slices. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the clafoutis is puffed and golden brown on top and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar if you like. Great with a cup of tea or coffee or a glass of bubbly.

Note: This clafoutis is also great cold the next day.

teresablackburnfoodstyling.com     foodonfifth.com

 

 

Sugared Strawberry Sponge Cake Stacks

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Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the Tennessee farmers who grow strawberries for all of us non-farmers to enjoy every May. Year by year they are out in their fields early on chilly mornings checking on their fields while we are snug in our beds. They watch the weather reports, day in-day out, trying to judge how each years crop will turn out. Too much rain….not enough. Too many cloudy days or relentless heat.

This year’s Tennessee strawberry crop has been so sweet. It is a short season so do not delay.  Boxes full of tender, ruby-red berries lined up at Farmer’s Market stands just for making recipes such as this, “Sugared (Tennessee) Strawberry Sponge Cake Stacks”.

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I made wee sponge cakes in a muffin tin with just a few ingredients. These cakes are light and airy with just a hint of sweetness. I want to taste the berries first, then the berry juice soaked cake with a quick dusting of powdered sugar.

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Warm sponge cakes……I sprayed the muffin tin with coconut spray which added a very nice hint of coconut to the cakes……

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….berries rinsed, patted dry, cut in half and tossed with raw sugar.

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It would not be May without sugared strawberries and little cakes!

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The berries from Delvin Farms. The wee sponge cakes are based on a recipe by James Tanner from his amazing wonderful and simple cookbook “Take 5 Ingredients”.

Sugared Strawberry Sponge Cake Stacks

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • coconut oil spray (I just discovered this and adore  the hint of coconut it imbues)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar (if you cannot find then pulse regular sugar in processor until fine)
  • 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour sifted with 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 pints of fresh (local) seasonal  Strawberries, rinsed & patted dry, tops cut off and halved
  • 1/3 cups raw sugar
  • powdered sugar for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 6 cup muffin tin with coconut spray. Set aside.
  2. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until pale & frothy.
  3. In another bowl whisk, or use a hand mixer, the egg whites until stiff. Whisk the egg whites into the egg yolks.
  4. Fold the flour-salt mixture  in small batches until all the flour is blended in.
  5. Divide batter between greased muffin tin cups. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and set in the middle. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove sponge cakes from tin and continue to cool on rack while preparing berries.
  6. In a glass mixing bowl toss together the strawberries & raw sugar. Mash a few of the berries with the back of a fork to release juices. Toss again and leave to sit for about 30 minutes before serving.
  7. To serve use a serrated knife to gently cut each wee sponge cake into 3 slices. Layer cake and berries on a serving plate. Allow about 5 minutes before serving to let cake layers soak up berry juice. Dust cake with powdered sugar and serve.

This is a simple dessert that is not overly sweet. Easy to make. Can be prepped ahead of time and can be made using any seasonal berries, peaches or plums.

“Pear-Blueberry Clafoutis Southern-Style”

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I am quite smitten with my pears this summer. I have spent some time gazing at them and even more time posing them, turning them this way and that, looking at how they catch the light at different hours of the day.  They are very willing models…silent, accommodating and seductively gorgeous.

This is not Food on Fifth’s first “pear rodeo” so to speak. In years past I have posted “A Series of Coincidences Involving Pears”,  “Pear Infused Vodka” and “A Seasonal and Southern Red Bartlett Pear-Almond Cake”. Soon a pear jam will appear on these pages…not today, but soon.

A Clafoutis (lovely to say aloud softly and be sure to keep the “s”),  and very French…a perfect pairing with my Southern twist…cornbread mix from “Southern City Flavors”, which you can buy at Whole Foods Markets or online,  and blueberries….a very oooh la la morning moment.

pear clafouti

This recipe is my adaptation of the classic French clafoutis which is pretty hard to trump. I was working on a photo shoot with Mike Weeks, proprietor of “Southern City Flavors” recently and he gave me a couple of bags of his cornmeal mix. Familiar with this product via Batch Nashville, I knew it would be a good fit with my Southern-style clafoutis.

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Quick and so easy, a warm, just out of the oven clafoutis with local berries & pears, light and custardy, just a hint of cornmeal crunch….powdered sugar or not…is what Sunday’s are made for. Oui? Oui!

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Sans a dusting of powdered sugar……..with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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Pear-Blueberry Clafoutis, Southern-Style

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

clafoutis

Ingredients:

  • 6 small ripe, but firm pears, halved & cores removed
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 TBSP softened butter
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 generous TBSP vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup white cornbread mix
  • powdered sugar if desired

Directions for Cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter an 8 to 10 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the buttered dish with 2 TBSP of the raw sugar. Arrange halved & cored pears cut side down in the bottom of the dish. Scatter the blueberries over the pears. Set aside.
  3. In a blender or with a hand mixer, blend the milk, remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt & cornbread mix together.
  4. Pour batter over the pears & blueberries gently tapping the dish on the kitchen counter to get out any air bubbles.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until puffy and golden brown on top.
  6. Serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar if desired.

Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling

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I like to make things. I’m pretty sure that is one of the reasons I ended up being a food stylist by trade and a jack-of-all-trades by nature. Making “beauty” is really what all my
“making” obsessions are about. Beauty that is organic & natural, beauty to look at, beauty to use every day, beauty that you can eat, beauty that is often an ode to times past, times in the future, or times that never were.

Such is this cake. A riff on the classic “Victoria Sponge Cake”, an ode to a time of lawn parties, women strolling across green parks in white dresses, croquet games where men wore bowler hats & seersucker suits. To a time when cakes were special, beautiful and meaningful.

Here is how you make my “Ruby Red Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake with Lemon Mascarpone Filling”

Shopping list: 2 pints of small strawberries, 1 pint of whipping cream, 1 carton of mascarpone cheese, 1 lemon, super-fine sugar or regular granulated sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, self-rising flour, 5 eggs, salt, parchment paper, oil to grease pans

Make it:

1. Preferably use local Spring strawberries, (these ruby red beauties came from the Downtown Nashville Farmer’s Market), 2 pints rinsed & drained, caps removed. Leave berries whole unless they are large, then cut in half. Set aside.

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2. To make this very easy sponge-cake you will need 5 large eggs separated, 3/4 cup superfine sugar (if you don’t have then pulse regular granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds to make your own), 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour sifted with a pinch of salt.

3. Grease & line two 8 or 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Whisk egg yolks & sugar together until a pale yellow.  Using a stand or hand mixer whip egg whites until stiff.  Whisk egg whites into yolks. Gently sprinkle sifted flour over eggs in batches and fold into eggs using a large metal spoon until all the flour is mixed in.

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5. Divide batter between two prepared pan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cake layers are light golden brown  & cooked in the middle. Remove from pans to cool completely on wire racks.

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6. Mix 1 cup or container of marcarpone cheese, which is slightly sweet,  with the juice & zest of half a lemon. Blend well.

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8. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate or stand. Spread lemon mascarpone on top. Arrange half the berries over &  gently press them into the cheese. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar.

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9.  Top layer of berries with the second cake layer. Whip one cup of heavy cream with 2 tbsp powdered sugar & 1 tbsp vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Spread on top of second cake layer. Top whipped cream with the remaining berries. Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

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11. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.  I made this cake from start to finish in 1 hour. It keeps well lightly covered for a day or two in the fridge.

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Notice the texture of the cake….very sponge-like!

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Making this cake will create a sense of well-being, make you think about the historical context of baking cakes, allow you to use fresh, local, just picked strawberries that taste like berries should.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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“Victoria Sponge & Strawberries”

“Old Fashioned Victoria Sponge Cake with Tennessee Strawberries”

This Saturday I bought a few pints of fresh picked Tennessee Strawberries at the Sylvan Park Farmer’s Market. This year’s crop is especially abundant and sweet. These small juicy  berries call out for a light sponge cake &  freshly whipped cream slightly seasoned with vanilla & sugar. I don’t often make desserts but as we were going to a dinner party and I was asked to bring dessert I wanted to make a special treat that would be a take off on the classic strawberry shortcake, but lighter. This dessert is easy to make from start to finish and is a stunner. It’s like eating air with a dash of sweetness.


To make a simple light sponge cake you will need the following:


2 sticks butter softened to room temp, use a little to grease cake pans (JD’s Dairy butter worked great for this cake.)

1 cup superfine sugar

4 eggs

(I used fresh local eggs from McDonalds that I purchased at the Sylvan Park Farmer’s Market as well)

1 3/4 cups self-rising flour & a pinch of salt (White Lily Flour is a good choice)

2 tbsp warm water

1 cup whipping cream + 1 tbsp sugar + 1 tsp vanilla

2 cups local, sweet strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar for dusting top of cake

To Make the Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease two 8 inch cake pans with butter & line bottom of each with a circle of wax paper.

3. Using a hand mixer cream together the butter & sugar until well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Sift flour &  salt over the creamed mixture. Add warm water & beat together until well mixed. Batter is a thick, light & creamy texture.


5. Divide cake mixture evenly between the two cake pans. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until cakes are done in the centers. Remove from oven.  Turn cake layer out onto cooling racks until completely cool.

6. Using a serrated knife split each cake into two layers. Use three for this cake. Wrap &  store 4th layer for later in the week when you want to make strawberry shortcakes for two.

7. Whip cream with sugar & vanilla. Place one layer on cake stand or cake plate & cover with half the sweetened whip cream. Top with half of the strawberries.

8. Add 2nd cake layer and press down slightly. Spread remaining half of whipped cream over cake & top with remaining sliced berries.

9. Place 3rd cake layer on top of berries pressing down slightly. Dust top with confectioner’s sugar. Place in refrigerator to chill until ready to serve. This cake is best assembled a couple of hours before serving. Serve cut into wedges with additional dusting of confectioner’s sugar if desired.


This type of cake was originally called a “Victoria Sponge Cake” named for Queen Victoria. It sounds fancy, looks fancy but is one of the easiest desserts to make to show off Spring Strawberries.

A bit about Victoria Sponge Cake & Self-Rising Flour from Wikipedia:

Victoria sponge

The Victoria sponge cake was named after Queen Victoria, who favoured a slice of the sponge cake with her afternoon tea. It is often referred to simply as sponge cake, though it contains additional fat. A traditional Victoria sponge consists of raspberry jam and whipped double cream or vanilla cream, just jam is referred to as a ‘jam sponge’ and most certainly not a Victoria sponge. The jam and cream are sandwiched between two sponge cakes; the top of the cake is not iced or decorated.

Self-Rising Flour

Leavening agents are used with some flours, especially those with significant gluten content, to produce lighter and softer baked products by embedding small gas bubbles. Self-raising (or self-rising) flour is sold premixed with chemical leavening agents. The added ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the flour which aids a consistent and even rise in baked goods. This flour is generally used for preparing scones, biscuits, muffins, etc. This type of flour was invented by Henry Jones and patented in 1845. Plain flour can be used to make a type of self-rising flour although the flour will be more coarse. Self-raising flour is typically composed of the following ratio:

  • 1 cup flour;  1 teaspoon baking powder;  a pinch to ½ teaspoon salt
  • “Pick Your Own”

There are lots of farms in Middle Tennessee where you can pick-your-own berries for freezing, making jams & jellies or for creating your own desserts. Just go to the website listed below to find a farm near you.

http://www.pickyourown.org/TNmiddle.htm

eat more cake…….