August 12, 2017

Cherry Clafoutis


Clafoutis defies a truly comprehensive description. It's part custardy flan, part pancake, part coffee cake, and a distant relation to the soufflé -- while not really being any of these things. What it actually is, is an iteration of the amazingly versatile eggs/milk/flour matrix that comprise the batter for crêpes, Yorkshire puddings, and Dutch babies (and more), neatly proportioned to create a simple French country dessert.

Just like the eternal cakey vs fudgy brownies debate, there are different styles for clafoutis. This one is decidedly more like a set custard than a cake, with a glossy interior revealed when sliced up to serve. A bit more flour would make it cakier, but might therefore also benefit from a bit of leavening agent.

The quality of the cherries counts, here. If your cherries are bland, the clafoutis will not be as good.

Clafoutis aux Cerises

Adapted from Everyday French Chef

400 grams fresh, sweet cherries
70 grams (1/3 cup) flour
80 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
175 mL (3/4 cup) whole milk
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Butter, for greasing the casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to gas 180°C (350°F), with a rack in the middle.

Wash and gently dry the cherries, remove any stems, and remove the pits (I use an olive pitter).

Lightly butter a small (1 litre / 4 cup) casserole or baking dish. Add as many of the cherries as you need to form a single layer (not too tightly packed - there needs to be a little room for the batter).

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly until they are perfectly integrated and foamy.

Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and stir through. Next, add the milk, cream, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly over the cherries. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the clafoutis is golden and still a little wobbly in the middle. Sift the icing sugar over the clafoutis and return it to the oven until it is firm in the middle, about 5 minutes more. Check for doneness with a toothpick or sharp, clean knife in the middle. If it comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready. If not, bake it for a few minutes more.

Serve warm. If you are preparing the clafoutis in advance, reheat it gently before serving. Serves 4.

August 06, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Buffalo wings have run deliciously amok. What started out as a simple bar snack, has since become everything from pasta to dip to casserole to pizza, and gone through some interesting ingredient iterations: some folks swap out the blue cheese dressing for ranch, and some even switch the chicken with cauliflower. The configurations seem endless, and that's good news for those of us who love our hot sauce oriented food.

This particular pizza is a pretty stripped down version of the classic combination of Frank's Red Hot sauce, chicken, and blue cheese dressing. Because it's pizza, I've added a final layer of shredded mozzarella, just to tie it all together. I've dispensed with the traditional carrot and celery sticks, although you could either serve them alongside (which would be appropriate) or dice them finely and use them as a topping - but I think they would be a bit of a distraction there. So.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

1 Standard pizza

! batch pizza crust dough (see below)
125 mL (1/2 cup) creamy blue cheese dressing (or more to taste)
350 grams cooked, shredded chicken
60 mL (1/4 cup) Frank's Red Hot sauce (original)
1 tablespoon butter
200 grams shredded mozzarella

Dough

3/4 cup warm water (not hot)
1-2 teaspoons active dry yeast (use 1 tablespoon if you have the time to let it rise)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Approximately 2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Test the water by sticking your impeccably clean finger in it. If it's pleasantly warm, but not hot, you're good to go. If not, adjust as needed. Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water and let stand for about five minutes. The yeast will soften, and gradually start to foam up to the top of the water. This usually only takes a few minutes, but if your water is quite cool it might take a little longer. Once the yeast has gotten foamy, stir in the olive oil (or canola, if you don't have olive oil) and 1/2 cup of the flour.

Stir until combined into a sort of paste, and then beat vigorously for 100 strokes all in the same direction. It sounds silly, but this is the basis for a very smooth dough, and it doesn't actually take very long at all. A wooden spoon is ideal for the job. Once your mixture is smooth and silky-looking, add the salt and 1 cup of flour. Stir until the flour is mostly incorporated - it gets very stiff very quickly - and then turn out onto a clean counter to knead. Add more flour as you need it, if the dough seems sticky or wet.

Knead the dough briskly for about five minutes, or until it comes together in a satiny ball and is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest on the counter while you wash out the bowl that you started it in. Wash and dry the bowl, and spritz with a little oil. Place your dough into the bowl (turn it over once so that a little oil gets on the top) and cover with a towel while you prepare your toppings. The dough doesn't need to rise double in size (although it's fine if it does) but it should show some signs of life when you get back to it - be softer and a little risen.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 220°C / 450°F, with the rack placed in the middle. Prepare a pizza pan by sprinkling a generous amount of cornmeal in a thin layer over it, or lightly oiling.

Toppings

In a small skillet, heat the butter and hot sauce together and stir well to integrate (a whisk might help). Add the shredded chicken and toss/stir to thoroughly coat.

Press the dough out evenly on your pan. If the dough is still a bit tense, it might take a little longer, but this amount of dough will fit a full sized pizza pan. Just be patient and keep pressing it out, even if it tries to spring back, or let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Once the dough is stretched to the full size of the pan, spread the blue cheese (or ranch, if you must) dressing evenly over it, leaving a little uncovered around the edge. Use a big spoon or your fingers to distribute the sauced up chicken over the dressing, and then add your mozzarella.



Slide the pan into your preheated oven and bake for at least 12 - 15 minutes (depending on your oven, maybe a little more), or until the crust is golden and delicious.

Slide pizza onto cutting board and pretend you're going to share. Put the rest of the bottle of Frank's Red Hot on the table...and try not to burn your mouth from devouring everything too quickly.

Note about foil: If you have cleverly put down a layer of foil in the bottom of your oven to protect it from drips, know that this is going to have a negative impact on the cooking time and browning of your pizza - especially the bottoms thereof. Put a baking sheet down there if you must, but foil really screws with the heat flow in an oven, and things take much longer to cook (and don't brown evenly). It might not affect other recipes, but it's terrible for pizza and pie crusts.



I added an extra perimeter of cheese and popped mine back in the oven for a couple of minutes, because it seemed like a good idea. It was. If you have some nice, mild, crumbly Danish blue cheese, that would go perfectly here.