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Custard Evokes a Summer in France

May 23, 1996|MARY CARROLL

Roaming through southern France one summer, I tasted many regional desserts. But the most memorable, and the one I have repeated in my kitchen many times, is a custard-filled pancake called clafouti.

French-cooking friends showed me how to arrange the fruit--anything from ripe cherries to a berry mixture to pears or apples--in a large pie plate, then add the light custard. Each cook has his or her own recipe for this custard, a mixture of sweetener, eggs, milk, flour and spices. The clafouti bakes until it is slightly puffed and golden brown and the creamy center is set.

Clafouti originally comes from the Limousin region of France and is most commonly made with black cherries. Tradition says (and some French cooks agree) that the cherries should not be pitted, just washed, since the kernels add flavor during cooking. The first pit-studded clafouti I tasted was the best, but it may be sweet memory and not the pits.

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RIPE CHERRY CLAFOUTI

2 cups washed and pitted black cherries

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed, or maple syrup

1 cup flour

3 eggs or equivalent egg substitute, lightly beaten

1 1/4 cups nonfat milk

2 teaspoons powdered sugar

To make a traditional clafouti, gather some perfectly ripe cherries. Unless you and your guests are traditionalists, use pitted cherries. This recipe was adapted from "Larousse Gastronomique" (Crown Publishers, 1988).

Lightly coat 9-inch glass pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange cherries in pie plate and sprinkle with 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Combine remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, flour, eggs and milk in medium bowl and beat until smooth. Pour custard over cherries. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and center is just set, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let stand 20 minutes before cutting (center will sink slightly). Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

225 calories; 69 mg sodium; 107 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 43 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 0.16 gram fiber.

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THREE-BERRY CLAFOUTI

2 cups mixed fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or cranberries

1/2 cup honey or sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 egg white

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/4 cups nonfat milk

2 tablespoons brown sugar or powdered sugar

Lightly coat 9-inch glass pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange berries in pie plate.

Combine honey, eggs, egg white, flour, vanilla and nutmeg in medium bowl and beat until smooth. Whisk in milk. Pour custard over berries. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and center is just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let stand 20 minutes before cutting (center will sink slightly). Dust with sugar before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

243 calories; 65 mg sodium; 72 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 51 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.69 gram fiber.

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INDIVIDUAL RASPBERRY CLAFOUTIS

2 cups fresh raspberries

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour

1/4 cup honey

1 cup nonfat milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Coat 4 (10-ounce) custard cups with nonstick cooking spray. Divide raspberries among cups. Set aside.

Combine flour, honey, milk, vanilla and eggs in medium mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Pour evenly over berries. Place custard cups in large baking pan. Pour hot water into pan to depth of 1 inch. Bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes or until set but center is still soft. Serve hot or at room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

213 calories; 69 mg sodium; 107 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 41 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 1.88 grams fiber.

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