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Meet clafouti and say 'enchante' Food: France's version of the cobbler uses the ripest, best fruit mixed with batter, then baked.


Summer heat translates into the best ripe fruit of the season, and there's no better way to capture all the fruit flavor than a delicate clafouti.

What exactly is a clafouti? First, it is pronounced "claw-foot-ee." France is the home of this fabulous baked fruit dessert. It's a sort of cobbler, but the pastry batter is mixed with the fruit rather than placed on top, as in the American cobbler.

Pies are good dishes for using firm, textured fruit like apples, but for juicier, tree-ripened, tender fruit, clafouti is the best technique. Softer fruits like peaches, plums and even berries release their juices when heat is applied to the clafouti's batter.

Although there is a certain richness in the batter, modern techniques have reduced the fat. Fruit makes up the largest portion of the clafouti, making it about the healthiest pastry around.

The best fruit for cobbler is the ripest, and I mean the very ripest, you can find. Go for the best fruit at the market, fresh from local farms and full of flavor. Even ripe, slightly bruised fruit may be trimmed and yield terrific clafouti.

Fruits with delicate skins, such as cherries, peaches and plums, don't need to be peeled unless you are preparing a meal for highly esteemed guests. Coarser-skinned stone fruits, such as apricots, are better peeled.

Slice the fruit into half-inch slices so that it will cook in the time it takes the pastry on top to finish.

Clafouti batter is among the simplest to make. The only trick is to mix it just until smooth. Overmixing will cause gluten to form in the dough, resulting in a tough pastry that will absorb less of the fruit juices.

The standard baking method calls for combining the fruit and batter, then baking the mixture in a tart pan or shallow baking dish. Bake until the batter is solid and the fruit is tender, about 40 minutes.

For best results, I use chef Madeleine Kamman's technique. Pour one-third of the batter into the baking dish and cook until almost solid, then add the combined fruit and remaining batter. This technique will prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom.

The best contrast to the warm cobbler is ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Take a walk on the wild side and mix fruits and berries for terrific unusual cobblers. Don't forget that a wild ice cream flavor or even sorbet will change the entire personality of a fruit custard.

Try one of my favorites -- Peach and Southern Comfort clafouti with raspberry sorbet -- for a summer treat.

Peach and Southern Comfort clafouti

Makes 8 servings

1/2 teaspoon butter

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup 2 percent, low-fat milk (skim milk can be substituted)

1/4 cup Southern Comfort liqueur (or substitute an additional 1/4 cup of milk or orange juice)

2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream

4 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 pounds fresh peaches, sliced 1/2 -inch thick

raspberry sorbet (or substitute your favorite ice cream)

confectioners' sugar

sprigs of mint for garnish (optional)

fresh raspberries for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10-inch quiche or shallow tart pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, milk, Southern Comfort, yogurt and honey until smooth. Slowly incorporate the egg mixture into the flour and sugar mixture.

Pour 1/3 of the batter into the tart pan and place on the lower rack of the oven. Cook until it starts to firm, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and flatten, if necessary, to make room for the remaining mixture.

In a separate large bowl, combine the peach slices and the remaining batter. Pour into the tart pan over the cooked batter and finish baking until solid and golden, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cake rack.

Cut into wedges and place in the center of the serving plates. Scoop the raspberry sorbet and place next to the clafouti. Sprinkle the plate and clafouti with confectioners' sugar. If desired, garnish dish with a sprig of mint and a few fresh raspberries and serve. Makes one 10-inch tart.

Per serving, without sorbet: 190 calories, 8 percent calories from fat, 2 grams fat, 54 milligrams cholesterol, 30 milligrams sodium, 40 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein

Pub Date: 8/18/96

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