It's your second night in Provence (Clafoutis)
Updated: Aug 19, 2018
So you bake Julia Child's clafoutis (because let's be real, on your first night you couldn't stop sleeping).
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is upend your life as quickly as possible. I'm talking happening upon the opportunity to live in the French countryside and arriving, alone, in Provence only one month later.
What's perhaps just as surreal as actually being here, nestled among crinkled mountains, cradled by the earth, surrounded by orchards and strangers speaking swiftly (and for me, unintelligibly; did I mention I don't speak French?), is a conversation from December. A conversation where all pragmatism was set aside and all whimsy embraced wholeheartedly.
"Ideal world, what do you do after you finish your MBA?"
"Move to the South of France and write a cookbook."
Just six months later, two weeks before receiving my degree, there it was: the offer to care for a fellow Smithie's home in Provence. I immediately sent the screenshot to my favorite conversation partner:
"Someone is trying to murder me, right? This is too much of a coincidence to not end with me getting murdered, right?"
Here I am, not murdered, in a home rich with quirks and stories (to be told), humbly welcoming what was so recently a wintry night's dreamy rambling.
On night one, I slept and slept. On night two, I baked.
As soon as I picked up the basket of apricots from a fruit stand flanked by sunflower fields, I knew what to make with the plump little beauties: Julia Child's clafoutis. Too perfect: clafoutis is one of my favorite ways to showcase stonefruit and I've unintentionally modeled my life after Julia's. Smith College graduates, Le Cordon Bleu Paris trained culinarians...
Clafoutis is pretty darn easy. If you haven't had it, I like to think of it as the inside of a popover all the way through. Light, custardy, chewy, yummy, etc. Julia usually made this with cherries, and advises to toss them in sugar. My original plan was to skip this step because my apricots were wildly sweet already, but that plan went straight out the window when I uncovered one of the many wonders of this old, nearly untouched house: a cabinet full of jams, homemade by the 90-year old sculptor/chef/truffle-dog trainer who lived a long, long stretch of her life here until just a two months ago. RIP Vony. I'm so looking forward to getting to know you through your exceptionally unique home.
As I downsize, reorganize, redecorate the rooms of this French country ranch, I'm always looking for tasteful opportunities to showcase Vony's work. Here, in front of a preserve-filled cupboard, was an opportunity to do just that in my cooking; let's toss the apricots in jam! I wiped the dust from jar after jar searching for "abricot" and "framboise."
First up is the (super easy) batter. Just blend milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, and salt until nice and aerated. The eggs are the only thing giving your clafoutis any lift* in the oven, so be sure to blend until the mixture lightens in color and has a nice froth of bubbles on top. A minute, minute 30 seconds should do it. No less. Pour into a 9" round baking dish and pop into a 350 degree oven until a film starts to form atop the custard--10 to 15 minutes.
While the custard starts baking, slice your apricots in half and remove the pits (obviously). Toss in a bowl with jams and just a quick splash of water. When your custard has formed a film, place your apricot halves thoughtfully into the batter. I always try to imagine how I'll be cutting it, and distribute the fruit so that every slice has roughly the same amount of fruit. Pop back into the oven until top is browned, batter has puffed up around the fruit, and a knife comes out clean. About 40 minutes, but will depend on your oven, so keep an eye on it beginning around the 30 minute mark.
Allow to cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy! I rotated between having this for dessert and breakfast in the days following.
*I accidentally typed "life" instead of "lift," and I'm all about making that a thing.
Adapted from Julia Child's Clafoutis (serves 6)
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
6 fresh apricots, pitted
2 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
1 tablespoon water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blend milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour in a blender or with an immersion blender until frothy and lightened in color, 1-2 minutes.
3. Pour batter into a 9" round and bake until film begins to form, 10-15 minutes.
4. While waiting, slice apricots in half and remove pits.
5. Combine apricot jam, raspberry jam, and water in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.
6. Add apricots and toss lightly with fork until apricots are evenly coated.
7. When film is formed on custard, place apricots into batter in concentric circles.
8. Bake for 40 minutes, or until custard is puffed up, browned, and a knife stuck into the center comes out clean.
9. Allow to cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Cherry & Almond: sub cherries for apricots, sub almond extract for vanilla, top with sliced almond after baking
Peach & Cardamom: sub peaches for apricots & toss in a mixture of 1TBS sugar and 2TBS cardamom