{Baking} CHOCOLATE PLUM CLAFOUTIS … inspired yet again!

“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”
Mark Kurlansky
I am fascinated by what Katie ate … what she ate all winter, summer and in the seasons in between! Do I sound obsessed? Well maybe I am, but since the word sounds rather harsh, I shall stick with ‘fascinated‘. You might have guessed. Yes indeed, I have a new favourite blog on the block, and this one is an utterly charming one – What Katie Ate, ‘all the way from Sydney‘; a ‘foodie photography blog’.
I discovered her photography quite a while ago googling for pictures for the Daring Bakers Pavlova Challenge, and I was completely smitten. I love the old world rustic charm her pictures offer, very retro and very classic. They instantly struck a chord with me, and dragged me into their realm. I was lost amidst her foodie pictures for a long time, with recipes that seemed to take a new meaning. Food here meant so much more…
A bookmarking frenzy followed, but I soon got involved with work at home and completely forgot about the recipes until I luckily found the very last batch of plums in the market a week ago. Yes, the very last as now they are truly gone. A cherry chocolate clafoutis from What Katie Ate was high on my list, the recipe easy as could be  from Julia Childs Mastering The Art of French Cooking. At the very bottom of the  post, I read that any stone fruit would work; you could see me SMILE!
I made Olive Oil Schiacciata from her blog last week, and some Triple Chocolate Toblerone Muffins day before yesterday. I wanted to make the clafoutis as well, but was dog tired that day. A quick check of the ingredients late at night had the men in the house peering over my shoulder telling me how hungry they still were, and that the dessert looked so good. There was no escape, and as promised, I had the clafoutis going yesterday morning.
A dessert as simple as this is not to be given the pass. It takes all of ten minutes to put together, about 30 minutes of baking, and 10 minutes of cleaning up. What luxury! Oh and of course, about an hour extra to take pictures, but then, that’s the joy of food blogging! What is food without pictures???
I made individual servings in ramekins I had picked up from Sydney a couple of years ago. Maybe they were a little smaller than regular ramekins, and I had some batter remaining so I filled up a few mini molds too, adding my last few frozen cherries to the plums. Luckily Katie mentioned that the clafoutis deflates pretty soon, so it was a race to get the pictures, but the puffiness was gone within 5 minutes of the blighters being out of the oven. The little rum baba molds really puffed up beautifully, and I am bummed I couldn’t get a decent pic of those… Well, whatevah!!
 So here we are, with a final au revoir to my favourite fruity season. Come back soon please!
Notes to self: Don’t forget to add some sugar on top next time. That vanilla sugar would have done these some good. Also, if the plums are tart, like mine were, remember to add 2-3 extra tbsp of sugar. Another thing, don’t over-bake the custards. I should have really taken the rum baba molds out 5-7 minutes before the rest, as they got ever so slightly rubbery. A smattering of chocolate chips would have added to the indulgence, and next year I might substitute 1/2 a cup of milk with low fat cream.
Chocolate Plum Clafoutis
Minimally adapted from What Katie Ate
500gms plums, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup of plain flour
1/4 cup of good cocoa powder {I used Valrhona}
A pinch of salt
2/3 cup of vanilla sugar
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
Method:
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease either one single 10-inch flan/pie dish, heavy cast iron skillet/frying pan, or 6-8 individual flan dishes.
Pit and chop the plums. Arrange in the dish cut-side facing upwards. At this stage, an optional extra is to include a handful of chocolate chips in with the cherries.
Put the flour, vanilla sugar, cocoa and salt into the processor and whiz for 10-15 seconds to mix. Then add the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and process again till well mixed into a batter, about 30 seconds.
Pour the batter carefully over the fruit. Sprinkle a tbsp of castor sugar {a handful for a single large dish} on top and bake in the oven for approx. 20-25 minutes for small ramekins, or an hour for 1 single large dish.
Note: This can also be made with plums, pears, peaches or any stone fruit you like. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you like.

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{No Bake/Frozen} PEACH-GINGER & PLUM-VANILLA GRANITA … bidding adieu to stone fruit

Worldly things were of little meaning. She lived for hamburgers, ice cream, pencil and paper. 
Carol Adams
I’m really really gutted and you might wonder why. I feel as if I lost the first prize and walked away with the consolation prize. At the heart of my misery is my rather late discovery of the granita. Have actually contemplated making it quite often, but never with such a sense of urgency until I saw this post on House of Annie. I was generally googling for something fun and refreshing to do with the last plums and peaches of the season, and this particular post had me gaping! Annie had made peach and plum granita and I just knew what my next sweet stone thing was going to be!
Annie made both granitas but her recommendation on the peach flavours were far more exciting – Peach & Ginger? Yes please! I had the sugar syrup and ginger simmering in no time. Her feedback on the plum granita wasn’t too good, and sent me looking for another. I settled for a Bon Apetit recipe I found on Epicurious. The vanilla bean had my attention, and I am really glad I tried this one.
Both the flavours turned out over the top fantastic which is why I was so cheesed off. Oh to have discovered something so good at the very end of the season! I know how my next stone season  looks  …  a fridge full of granitas for sure! And before I forget, I read somewhere that you scrape the granita with the fork every 30 minutes to keep the ice crystals small! They taste so good once they reach freezing point, that it’s difficult to keep away from stealing a bite. The son ran out of ‘scraping with the fork’ patience, “It’s OK Mama, we can eat it like this!”, while Mr PAB grabbed the fork and said “WTH is this? It’s fab“!

For me, the hard work was the pushing the pulp through the sieve. It took forever, or like forever. Also, my granitas took a whole day before reaching freezing point. Maybe I need a new fridge, maybe… I adjusted the sugar in the plum granita because the plums were quite sour. I also added 2 drops of red food colour as the plums weren’t the dark red ones. You can skip that, but I let them be to give me colour contrast with the peach. Oh yes, one more thing … once out of the freezer, granita melts really fast!

I’ve learnt since that running the plums through a blender is MUCH better than using a processor. Managed to achieve the other thing I had bookmarked and that was this delicious to the last drop plum lemonade, posted here. My last lot of plums were squishily sitting in the fridge till day before, and  now I have them blended. One more thing  on my list to do using plums before we are done with the season, a plum fro yo. Mmmm …

Plum Vanilla Granita

Adapted minimally from Epicurious {Bon Appétit}
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 pounds plums, pitted, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Method:
Combine water, sugar and cinnamon in heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 2 minutes. Cool syrup completely.
Puree the plums in processor. Press enough puree through sieve to measure 1 1/2 cups. Strain syrup into puree and blend well. Transfer mixture to a shallow 9 X 5 loaf tin. Freeze plum mixture until flaky crystals form, stirring every 30 minutes, about 4 hours. After it hardens, use a fork to scrape it up into coarse granules. {Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; keep frozen}

Peach Granita

1″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
7-8 large peaches, stoned
Method:
Slice the ginger into slivers and boil them along with the cup of sugar and cup of water
Cut up the peaches and blend along with the slivers of ginger from the syrup. Then strain the puree through a sieve. To the puree add the juice of one lime, and then the ginger sugar syrup. Pour into a shallow dish and place in freezer. After it hardens, use a fork to scrape it up into coarse granules.
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{No Bake/Vegetarian Dessert} TROPICAL FRUIT VERRINES… Stoned this summer!

“Give me book, fruit, French wine, and fine weather and a little music out of doors played by someone I do not know”
John Keats
 


We’ve been stoned nice and proper this summer! No, no, it’s not what you think. It’s just that we’ve had a wonderful bounty of stone fruit, and just when I think it’s the end of the season, the vibrant bazaar and the vendor tempt me back with more fruit to offer! A few days ago, my favourite fruit-vendor promised me another week of peaches. Just when I heaved a sigh of relief that I still had time, and there was really no need for ‘fruit’ panic, he showed the most luscious peaches. I had walked into the trap!

Got back home with a kilo of the most gorgeous peaches, and had them peeled and pitted in next to no time. Had several thoughts of what to do with them. Then my Dad dropped by for lunch, so they were hurriedly chopped up and served with a lightly sweetened cream! Classic and so comforting in every spoonful, ‘Peaches and Cream‘ have to be the most simple yet luxurious dessert to serve in a jiffy!
Predictably, I was back to the shop that afternoon to get another kilo of peaches. I had Tropical Fruit Verrines from Tartlette on my mind, and this years bounty of stone fruit ensured that I could chase  this unfulfilled foodie dream! A bag of peaches, a fridge full of mangoes, kiwi fruit and a jar of preserved cherries. {I preserved those in May} were all singing to me. Could see a very happy family in the near future! Toyed with using just hung yogurt in the topping, but then in last minute decision thought that a little low fat cream wouldn’t do too much harm, so in it went. A scraped vanilla bean in the topping tied it all up deliciously!
The verrine originated from France, and is a dessert or appetizer made by layering different ingredients in a single serving glass. It can be either sweet or savoury, and makes an attractive presentation. I’ve never tried making a savoury one, but have heard of layered salads, appetizers etc which are becoming a culinary trend. They are a display of art, and often offer a fascinating blend of colours, textures and complimentary flavours! Another plus is that this one can be made in advance, and the flavours mature beautifully. It is entirely customizable to taste. It’s fun to play around with the layers and ingredients.
 
Found joy at many levels here. A light make ahead dessert, stone fruit based, seasonal, simple, vegetarian, low fat, healthy, colourfu,l and above all, glass scraping delicious! Try it before the stone fruit season disappears. Cherries have gone from the market here, but you can use burgundy brandied cherries or canned cherries instead, or even use plums! You have to try it, and I promise you won’t miss the heavy cream. The topping is luxurious and creamy.
I enjoyed the explosion of colours the fruit in the verrine offered. Sliced fresh peaches and cherries completed my colour palette … I loved making it and we all enjoyed devouring it!

Tropical Fruit Verrines
Recipe adapted minimally from Tartlette
Serves 6
2 mangoes, peeled, and pureed with lime juice
2 tbsp lime juice
1 cup drained preserved cherries, or fresh, or canned
2 kiwis, skinned and diced
3 peaches, skinned, stoned and diced
1 mango, peeled and diced
1/2 cup hung yogurt {should be very thick}
150ml low fat cream {25%}
1 vanilla bean scraped
2 tbsp powdered sugar

Method:
For the bottom layer, peel the mango and cut in rough chunks, run them through the food processor with the lime juice until you obtain a fine puree. Divide it evenly among glasses or dishes.
Mix the diced fruit and cherries to get a nice fruit salad, add a couple of tbsp of lime juice to prevent the fruits from turning brown if you want. Divide on top of the mango puree evenly among the glasses.
Mix the hung yogurt, cream, powdered sugar and scraped vanilla bean in a small bowl with a whisk until just well blended & smooth., and divide it between the glasses. Top with fresh sliced fruit. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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