Monday, July 5, 2010

Fifth of July, not fifth of gin

First things first, I'm giving away some delightful Urbbody products in this post

Meanwhile, the quip "Fourth of July, fifth of gin" passed through my radar yesterday.  We missed out on fireworks, but stayed inside and tried to keep cool.  Our family barbecue is today and all that cooking I haven't done lately came to a head.

I'm historically in charge of dessert and I usually bake.  Unfortunately, we're in the grip of an entirely ridiculous heat wave. It went up to 100°F today, according to the thermometer on the front of the house. Mind you, our house is usually a good 4-6 degrees cooler than street level because we're on a hill surrounded by trees.  I can't remember a July this hot before, and we're all hiding inside as much as possible.

Luckily, we have a gas grill with a side burner, and a full tank of propane. I've made cobbler on the grill in the past, so today I decided to try clafoutis.  Clafoutis is a custard fruit tart and one of my favorite things. And then, because I've been wanting it for a while, I also made mango ice cream. A new recipe for me, that I like very much and can also see my way to modifying.
Blueberry and cherry clafoutis, and mango ice cream with a sprinkling of sweetened flaked coconut.

Recipes and more chatter after the jump.
The ice cream first, because it was by far the simpler process.

I used this recipe, and added lemon juice and some extra mango.  The resulting ice cream is very light in texture but still very creamy rich with full mango flavor. 
Mango Ice Cream - about a quart.
4 egg whites
4tbsp sugar
1c mango puree (I used 1 1/2c of mango chunks and puree, which was a little less than one large mango)
1c heavy cream
1tsp lemon juice

Beat the egg whites until they're frothy and then add the sugar and whip until they start to peak. I whipped them into a stiff meringue, which makes for a very light textured ice cream.

While the whites were beating, I cut and scraped the mango flesh from the skin and seed until I had a cup and a half.  The mango puree gets mixed with the rest of the ingredients and then folded into the beaten egg whites.  Pour this mixture immediately in to the ice cream churn and process as usual. Depending on how much volume is beaten into the whites, this may be slightly too much to fit. I was able to get it all to fit by churning it for a bit and then adding more as the freezing mixture lost volume.

It freezes quickly, and the light texture can lead to the ice cream sticking to the paddle and turning freely the sides of the cylinder, so scraping it down may be necessary.

I sprinkled it with a little sweetened flaked coconut to serve. Toasting the coconut would be even better, I think. I'm willing to bet that replacing some or all of the cream with coconut milk would also be good. And for those who don't like mangoes, any strongly flavored fruit could be substituted.

Now on to the Clafoutis. Today's experiment baking on the grill was... interesting. As always, there was the difficulty of keeping the grill cool enough on the bottom and paradoxically hot enough on the top.  It didn't cook as evenly as it would have in the oven, so the texture is not very delicate.  It's slightly rubbery, although I believe the flour saves it from that truly unpleasant rubbery egg texture.  Instead, it has an almost cakelike texture where it's overcooked.  Still with an edge of rubbery, but it's not offensively so.

I modified this recipe, and doubled it.  For my fruit, I used a pint of blueberries for one and the cherries out of a pint of canned sour cherries. I reserved the syrup in the cherries for something else.  I also used two 9in cake pans instead of two 10in pie tins.  I also reduced the amount of sugar added to the fruit by 2tbsp. The sugar is very dependent on the sweetness of the fruit.

Clafoutis - a double recipe - Preheat the oven to 375°F
2 pints or so of fruit
6tbsp sugar
4 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks (because I had 4 yolks from making ice cream, 4 yolks can be replaced with 2 whole eggs)
2 2/3c milk
1 1/3c flour (187g, I used mostly white flour with a bit of whole wheat)
the zest of one lemon
4tsp vanilla
a dash of cinnamon
6tbsp of sugar, thereabouts, for the fruit
butter for greasing the pans

Generously grease the pans and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar in each. Lay the fruit in the pans and then sprinkle with 2tbsp more sugar, each.  Sprinkle the fruit with cinnamon, or add 1tsp of cinnamon to the custard.

To make the custard, beat all the rest of the ingredients together well.  Pour the custard into the pans and bake for 45-60min until the center is set.  Serve warm or chilled.  In this case, I prefer them chilled.

Clafoutis is very simple, but I've included some process pictures for baking on the grill.  A well buttered pan with a bit of sugar sprinkled in it, the fruit added on top, and then more sugar and I chose to dust them with cinnamon.:

Pour the custard over the top and then place it on a baking pan in the oven.  Or, in this case, place it on a baking pan in the grill.  I doubled the baking sheets to create a slight insulated layer between the direct heat of the burners and the bottoms of the pans.  I also flipped the pans upside down because the combined diameter of the pans ended up slightly bigger than the baking sheet could accommodate.  Despite the relatively low temperature of the grill, the direct heat still caused the edges to puff up.  In response, I turned the the pans several times.

I baked them for about an hour, checking frequently to see if the center of each clafoutis was firm and set. The blueberry was done quite a bit sooner than the cherry and I should have pulled it. The finished clafoutis has tiny bubbles in it from slight overcooking.  I eventually turned off the grill for the last bit of cooking with residual heat.

I didn't bother dusting with powdered sugar as recommended by the originating recipe as they were sweet enough. And given how warm the weather is, chilled is preferable.  Served with softly whipped cream if desired.

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