My evolution as a cook and a baker has mirrored my life. At first (in my early twenties), much like a baby, I took small hesitant steps in the kitchen and I was amazed by just about everything I cooked (instant ramen noodles!). I soon grew more daring, and, like a hyperactive toddler, started to experiment wildly with my newfound hobby, most of the time falling flat on my face (undercooked chicken; burned veggies; I guess eggs will cook when you pour hot milk in them). A few years of cooking under my belt and I started to get serious. Just like a precocious teenager or a self-involved young adult, I developed strong opinions (I only use European style butter!) and became decidedly preoccupied with appearances. I wanted everything I cooked to look amazing. Flavor was important but presentation was king.
I guess I’ve now reached the middle age stage of my life as a cook (conveniently at the same time as the middle age stage of my actual life). Much of the time my cooking is about simplicity, convenience, and strong flavor. I favor recipes that make intuitive sense and result in deeply satisfying food without too much fuss.
This recipe fulfills those criteria perfectly. It’s a clafoutis, a classic French dessert, but not the fancy kind. It’s basically a baked custard, made in a blender and baked with fruit. The original recipe appeared on Orangette, Molly Wizenberg’s extraordinary food blog. I adapted it slightly, to incorporate some left over cranberries and to add a hint of almond flavor. The result is a dessert that may lack in the looks department, but makes up for it in flavor and texture. And it comes together in minutes. You can eat it for dessert or you can do what we did and have it for breakfast. Because when you reach middle age, you can do whatever the hell you want.
Brown Sugar Clafoutis with Pears and Cranberries – Adapted from Orangette
Butter, for greasing the pan
4 teaspoons white, granulated sugar
1 ripe pear
½ cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups (295 ml) whole milk
1 cup (155 g) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
pinch of salt
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9 ½-inch pie plate and dust it lightly with 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar. Shake out any excess.
Peel and core the pear, and slice it thinly in 14-16 slices. Arrange them on the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle chopped cranberries over the pears and top with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar.
In the jar of a blender, combine the milk, brown sugar, eggs, extracts, salt, and flour. Blend on high speed for about 30 seconds. Pour the batter over the pears and cranberries.
Bake until the custard is puffed and golden brown and the center is almost completely set, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.