Billet-Doux to Summers Past: Clafoutis

sour cherry clafoutis

Recently weather has been playing make-believe with us. I was searching for a word to best describe this time of the year, but all I came up with was uncertainty. End of February is a non-season, don’t you think? Had our fair share of cold, days are getting longer, but spring is not quite here yet either. We’ll just have to endure some more.

It’s also the toughest time of year in the kitchen when you cook produce oriented (which I try to do, within reason). I wanted to whip up dessert, but not something overly decadent. I was dreaming of light, fruity stuff. But what kind of fruit, really? Apples and pears are all from storage and I’m so tired of citrus and bananas by now.

I finally got inspired when we went out to dinner to Pavillon de Paris in celebration of Husband’s name day (also known in some circles as Valentine’s Day 🙂 ). Started off with Escargots de Bourgogne followed by duck and quail, and finishing with a perfect Crème brûlée for him, and Clafoutis with forest fruits for her.

Their clafoutis was a little unorthodox, served not in slices but in a ramekin and I absolutely loved it! Instead of the classic custardy pancake batter, the texture was a lot fluffier, soufflé-like. I think I felt a hint of almond in there too, which was also a wonderful touch.

Decision made, clafoutis it is. Sure, any fresh, local fruit is months away but I have access to the next best thing: frozen fruits. It’s about time we started cleaning out mom’s freezer anyway to make space for this year’s harvest (let’s just hope this isn’t wishful thinking).

You should know my parents maintain a mini model farm of a garden in their backyard with an amazing array of fruits and vegetables and what we don’t eat fresh gets conserved. They have a big capacity chest freezer literally overflowing with home-grown produce.

So we’re set. Or are we? I’ve read through dozens of recipes in search for this airy light take on the traditional French dessert, one that will hopefully puff up nicely and stay that way instead of collapsing in the middle as it cools, but came up empty-handed. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, I just didn’t happen to stumble upon it.

Eventually, I made an educated guess: the truth must lie in the intersection of pancakes and sponge cakes. I used some milk as per pancakes, and separated the eggs, as per sponges. Further on, I’ve decided to stick to the roots with sour cherries, although clafoutis works well with just about any fruit.

sour cherry clafoutis

The authentic way would have been using whole cherries. This is said to add more flavour but to be honest, I find having to deal with pits in your mouth a severe blow to the level of enjoyment. But, do as you like. Also note that frozen fruit should be thawed and drained beforehand.

Sour Cherry Clafoutis

  • Time: 20 min prep + 30 min baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The rustic, French country dessert with a twist in texture.

Ingredients

400 g sour cherries pitted or whole, fresh or frozen

3 eggs, separated

50 g + 3 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp kirsch or meggy pálinka (strong, clear fruit brandy, optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

50 g almond flour

50 g all-purpose flour

60 ml (1/4 cup) whole milk

powdered sugar, for dusting

butter, for greasing the pan

Directions

  1. If using frozen fruit, thaw and drain.
  2. Grease a 32 cm / 13” pie plate generously with butter, preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F.
  3. In a clean bowl, whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Adding a tbsp of sugar at a time, continue whisking until stiff and shiny. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and remaining 50 g sugar until pale.
  5. Add vanilla, alcohol (if using) and milk. Mix well.
  6. Add almond flour and all-purpose flour, mixing just until incorporated.
  7. Carefully fold in egg whites and pour batter into pan. Arrange cherries on top.
  8. Bake for 30-35 min until set and golden. Transfer to a rack to cool, serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar.

slice of cherry clafoutis

How do you deal with winter blues?

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I’ve visited, and used services offered by business establishments mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such entities represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Friday Finds

Late February days; and now, at last, might you have thought that winter’s woe was past; so fair the sky was and so soft the air.

William Morris

Today seeking shades of blue.

Grape hyacinth in blue (via Vibeke Design):

grape hyacinths and cherry blossom

Motivation in blue:

pema chodron quote

Paris in blue (photo by Joachim Robert via Flickr):

twilight Paris

Duvet in blue (via Pottery Barn):

Pottery Barn bed

Beverage in blue (Blueberry Mint Fizz by MKR via Waiting on Martha):

blueberry mint fizz

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

A Year of Blogging

grateful

Dear All,

It’s my first blogoversary! Is this even real? Feels like hitting publish for the first time was just yesterday. Wow. At an important milestone such as this one, a little reminiscing and a lot of looking ahead is in order.

A year and 100 posts ago I started this journey and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure I’d even make it this far. Yet here I am, not having missed a single post from my schedule, feeling motivated, inspired and ready to grow more than ever.

Regardless that my numbers are far from what you’d call monumental, I still feel like I have accomplished something. This wasn’t about going viral for me, and therefore I am grateful for every click more than you’ll know.

Looking back at it now, all of this started out as a hobby but has since blossomed into a real passion. My Chest of Wonders become such a wonderful outlet! As far as I remember I always loved writing, but blogging is so much more than that.

A lot of effort goes into it and therefore I appreciate every like, share and comment. Your support is everything. You are the reason I keep doing this. I feel humbled when anyone takes time out of their day to check out the things I put out there, even more so if you’re among those who enjoy it enough to follow me.

Can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for us! So, thanks again to all of you who have stuck with me and welcome if you’re stopping by for the first time!

Love,

Fruzsi

P.S. Here’s to that special someone who has had the biggest hand in making this blog a reality. I referred to you as the Fiance when I started, and now I am fortunate to call you my Husband. You’ve been here for me since day one and continue to encourage me every day. Thank you for being my Nr.1 fan! I love you always!

‘Grateful’design by Cocorrina

Friday Finds

Keep your faith in beautiful things;
in the sun when it is hidden,
in the Spring when it is gone.

–  Roy R. Gibson

A little spring on your windowsill (Grape Hyacith via Vibeke Design):

white grape hycinth

Everyday magic:

savor the small things

Longing for blue (Dolomites, Italy photo by Blurino):

dolomites italy

Nailhead trim and subtle hues (photo by Danielle of Silver Pennies):

couch and pillow

The art of pie (Maple Apple Pie by Janice of Kitchen Heals Soul):

apple maple pie

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Risk it for the Biscuit: Danish Vaniljekranse

danish vaniljekranse bisuits

You guys have to see this! Long story short, it was time for another of the necessary culls at my parents’s house last fall, targeting the kitchen and pantry this time. Chipped mugs, gift-pack whiskey glasses, you know, the stuff that keeps culminating over the years.

And so, I see my mom putting this in the toss section:

universal dough press

This memento cannot go was my reaction. Never been big on baking, you take it then, she shrugged. So here we are, an iconic article and me in my kitchen: I give you the glorious Universal Dough Press biscuit maker!

Produced in the ’80s by the booming centrally planned socialist command industry of Czechoslovakia, no less! This is serious retro alert for me, regardless of the fact that my Birth Certificate was issued with the red star still in it.

Hell-bent on using the device ever since I took it in, biscuits were on the proverbial chopping block. And then February, well, being February with gloomy, rainy, dull end-of-winter days finally made me go for it.

So next, a review of a kitchen gadget showcasing that Eastern Bloc zeitgeist nostalgia, plus a yummy Scandinavian-inspired recipe (for maximum geopolitical contrast, if you know what I mean).

Because who doesn’t love Danish butter cookies? I know I do, but I find shaping Vaniljekranse the traditional way with a piping bag quite the workout. Will it be easier with my newly acquired biscuit maker? We’re about to see!

vanilla pod and seeds

First, I made a batch of the simple dough (keep reading for the recipe). So far so good. It was time to assemble the dough press. Good thing I haven’t turned the oven on right away!

There’s a users manual included in the box written in Czech. The text wasn’t impossible to understand as I speak some Russian, but to actually get the concept? I eventually got so confused and fed up that I just tried figuring it out on my own.

Fast forward to choosing a disc attachment and filling the cylinder with dough. Let the fun begin! When I say fun, I mean I made a total mess of my kitchen – only started to get the hang of it somewhere between the 15th and 20th cookie. The predecessors were so distorted I had to mix them back in the batch.

biscuits on baking tray

They baked fine, taste great and in the end, after some considerable amount of practice most of them turned out looking acceptable.

dough press attachments

I have a few observations though:

You have to have a really soft, soggy dough, otherwise you’ll need the power of a soviet nuclear reactor to press it through the tiny slits on the discs.

Forget recipes calling for anything not in powdery consistency: oatmeal, crushed walnuts and the like will plug up the device in the blink of an eye.

Also, the aluminum it’s made of is not dishwasher safe: good luck with all those small, crooked particles…

Bottom line? I totally don’t need this dough press in my life. Mom, if you’re reading this: you were wise not to ever use it!

By the way, I’ve found one of these on Etsy for $110. Give me half of that and this piece of crap history is yours!

vaniljekranse-closeup

Danish Vaniljekranse

  • Time: 10 min prep + 20 min shaping + 10 min baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Danish butter biscuits with almonds and vanilla.

Ingredients

1 vanilla bean

175 g (6 oz) sugar

200 g (7 oz) butter, room temperature

2 eggs

250 g (9 oz) all-purpose flour

75 g (3 oz) almond meal

pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F), line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Scrape out seeds from the vanilla pod.
  3. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients to make a soft dough.
  4. Shape cookies: either fill dough into piping bag with the star nozzle attached and extrude into circles of 4 cm (1.5 inch) in diameter, or use a dough press with the disc of your choosing.
  5. Place cookies on baking tray about 3 cm (1 inch) apart.
  6. Bake for 8 min, until light golden around bottom.

Batch yields about 40 traditional ring-shaped cookies, or around 100 bite-size tea biscuits.

Love,

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

Valentine’s Day is around the corner! Fun fact: this romantic holiday was brought to my country only in the 90s by a florist. Fun fact #2: we recognise name days in Hungary, and in fact, they are almost as important as birthdays. My husband’s is February 14th, so it’s double reason for us to celebrate.

Flower love (Valentine Yarn Heart by Cami of Tidbits):

diy yarn heart

Word love:

love quote

Crochet love (Chunky Crochet Hearts by Lebenslustiger):

crochet hearts

Fabric love (Stich Detail Hearts by Nordic House):

stich detail hearts

Choco love (Heart Accents by Glory of Glorious Treats):

heart accent cupcake toppers

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Carnivals & Donuts

traditional hungarian farsangi fank

In Christian parts of the world, carnival celebrations are held during the period between Epiphany (January 6th) and Ash Wednesday (March 1 this year). Hungary, a mostly Catholic country is no exception, but our carnival season is far from average.

As Farsang (far-shaangh) is the last merriment preceding the 40-day piety of Lent, it is marked by many festivities, balls and costume parades aiming to scare winter off to finally welcome spring.

Our celebrations are a unique mixture of Christian and pagan traditions. Look no further than old folk custom Busójárás masquerade of the city of Mohács, Cultural Heritage acknowledged by UNESCO.

The carnival feast also includes a lot of excess eating and drinking as you’ve guessed, the most delicious of the treats being without any question farsangi fánk – the Carnival Donut itself. Even if you watch what you eat, it’s a must this time of the year!

You might say donuts are nothing special and indeed, they are all around the world. I’m not going to post a recipe either because chances are you have one already. Instead, I’m going to share how we do them here, the farsang-way.

It is fairly unclear how doughnuts got to our kitchens. The two most well-known theories are either adapting French beignets, or the product of a Viennese baker named Krapf (donuts are still called Krapfen in the germanosphere). The rich but relatively cheap pastry was first mentioned in 1603, becoming really popular throughout Hungary later, in the 19th century.

hungarian carnival donuts

It’s not my intention to break anyone’s spirit, not at all! But if you’ve never worked with yeast dough before, this pastry is probably not the best place to start. Traditional farsangi fánk should be airy-light inside and golden brown outside with a nice, white ribbon around its midsection. Fulfilling all the criteria is easier said than done: making a perfect donut is quite a fastidious task requiring an experienced hand.

For the delicate leavened pastry with high yeast content, all ingredients should be room temperature. The rising needs to happen in a warm place and the dough has to be handled with extra care not to break it (rolling-pin forbidden!). And even then, the temperature of the frying oil could make or break the results.

If you manage to succeed against all odds, these carnival specialties are then eaten warm and simple: no glaze or filling, just a dusting of powdered vanilla sugar. No holes either, a dent is made in the middle instead to accommodate a generous spoonful of homemade apricot jam.

hungarian donut with jam

We had ours with my spicy plum preserve this time and as you can see, the ribbons were far from perfect, but the happy faces definitely make up for all the misery. Also, a family tradition from grandmother to mother to daughter is continued.

Are there unusual carnival traditions where you live? Let’s hear about them!

Love,

Fruzsi