This is a story about craving food you’ve never tasted, and it starts with a question: Is it possible? Reason would say no, but good ole reason isn’t really a *thing* in our country these days anyway so I’m here to report that Yes! It is entirely possible, and in my experience, following that craving can lead to magical things.
Perhaps I haven’t mentioned it here yet but in a few weeks I’ll be riding my bicycle ALL the miles (all = 550) from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of a big charity event to raise money for the local LGBT Center and AIDS research. The whole shebang takes a week and you camp every night as you make your way down the coast of California, which is hilly and rugged and omg what have I gotten myself into baaaaah. Ahem! Serenity Now.
So every weekend I’ve been doing at least one long ride, with my longest so far being 93 miles (and a century planned for Saturday) and it’s sort of a bummer to say that these rides are really jocking my weekend pig out style. You’d think that 7 hours and 52 minutes of mouth breathing while trying not to crash would cause a girl to work up an appetite, but not me. Wait what? Sitting on your butt doing nothing all day leaves you famished but working out for the length of an entire workday doesn’t make you hungry, Meghan? I know, I don’t get me either. After doing a lot of googling the first couple times it happened, I’ve resolved not to worry about it. I just choke down whatever food I can, drink a bunch of juice, and then usually the next day my appetite is insane and I proceed eat an ungodly amount of food. Hashtag healthy lifestyle.
And yes, I took that way left field but I had to explain just how hungry I was as I lay on the couch this past Sunday, the morning after another big ride, thumbing through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, like one does. That is, hungry enough that immediately upon reading the description for berry clafoutis I began to smell the sweet scent of raspberries bubbling away in the oven and taste the warm, custardy pie with those faintly browned edges I love so much. Except never once in my life had ever eaten clafoutis. Details! Who needs ‘em?! I was too busy running down to the corner store in my short-shorts and house shoes for ingredients to notice any discrepancies. I made it that night too, and in the most anticlimactic ending to a craving emergency, it turned out completely and utterly meh.
This was an unpleasant surprise because I’ve never gotten bad results from a Julia Child recipe followed to the letter. It’s such a deeply revered classic too that I’m sure the failure was on me, but that still wasn’t enough to convince me to try it again. I moved on, knowing I could find another recipe somewhere, though where I did was also a bit of a shocker. This crinkly topped, berry-studded beauty of a clafoutis comes from none other than Jessica Seinfeld’s new book Food Swings.
Hold up. Did I just tell you that Jerry Freakin Seinfeld’s wife knows clafoutis—the traditional fruit custard from the Limosin region of France—better than the high priestess of French cuisine herself? Well, I can see how it sounded that way, and that was in fact the case in my kitchen, but who even knows what anyone else knows. Real talk, I bought this cookbook during a drunken amazon spree (insert flying money emoji), and like I said, I’m sure the failure of the Julia-style clafoutis was on me. What struck me as brilliant, though, is that Jessica Seinfeld’s method has fewer steps (e.g., it skips browning part of the batter before adding the berries) and a more consistently light and fluffy texture. The key here is swapping out part of the all-purpose flour for almond flour which is less dense and more fatty, lending itself to a more delicately textured custard and making it harder to screw things up. When I hear the word "foolproof" associated with recipes I usually roll my eyes, but this one does it’s best and it shows. I don’t know what drunk me was hoping I’d get out of this cookbook, but this clafoutis is an instant classic and I’m keeping it forever. Fin.
Berry Clafoutis, nearly perfect as printed from Food Swings by Jessica Seinfeld
Unsalted butter, for greasing the baking dish
1/2 cup plus 2 or 3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for the baking dish (me: 2, original: 3)
3-4 cups mixed raspberries and blackberries (me: just over 3, original: 4)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal/flour
A couple grates of lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar into the dish and shake to coat the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Arrange the berries in a single layer over the bottom of the dish. Here is where you decide how many berries you need to cover the bottom surface of your particular baking vessel.
In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, 1/2 cup of sugar, vanilla, flour, almond meal, lemon zest, and salt. Blend for 1 minute. Skim off the frothy top layer until the top surface looks smooth and has far less bubbles. Pour over the layer of berries in the dish and sprinkle with the remaining 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar. (Two was plenty sweet for me.)
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the top is puffed and golden and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm.