Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread

Rhubarb is the rebel of the vegetable world. It looks like celery, tastes like sour candy, its leaves are poisonous and unlike most spring and summer produce, its barely edible raw. With such a feisty personality, its no wonder some are intimidated to cook it.

More than any other fruit or vegetable, rhubarb to me is the sign of the changing season. It is the signal that summer is arriving in those ruby red or speckled green & pink stalks. I snap up what I can in the garden and when I see it at the supermarket. I take all I can and more, slicing and freezing the excess for rhubarb cravings that come in winter.

Year-round, I save rhubarb recipe ideas I hope to make once I get my hands on the first stalks of the season. No summer would be complete without cinnamon rhubarb bread …. still warm from the oven and the heavenly smell of cinnamon in the air!

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Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread
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Rhubarb/Cinnamon Filling
Glaze - Optional
Servings
Ingredients
Rhubarb/Cinnamon Filling
Glaze - Optional
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Instructions
Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla & food color. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & food coloring; allow to cool to room temperature.
Dough
  1. In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
  3. Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; set aside
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & press down to deflate it. Fold in the two opposite sides to meet in the middle, then fold in the remaining two sides to meet, so that you've formed the dough into a square. Press down to flatten it slightly, then cover loosely and let stand for 10 minutes
  5. With a floured rolling pin, rolling the dough to form a rectangle that's 12 by 22 inches. Make the corners as square as possible. If you're having trouble with the dough shrinking back, pause briefly before trying again.
  6. Spread rhubarb/cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Now fold the two long sides of the dough in one at a time, so that the meet each other in the middle. Pinch them together gently to seal the seam. Gently roll over the surface with a rolling pin to flatten the folded dough to about 7 by 25 inches.
  7. Starting at the narrow end, roll up the dough, making a thick spiral. When you get to the end, brush a little egg wash on the loaf at the spot where the end will hit. Pinch the end a bit to seal it.
  8. Carefully & gently place the roll, seam side-down in the buttered pan. The roll of dough should nearly fill it. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 25-30 minutes, until almost doubled & about 2 inches above the top of the pan. Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks so that you have one rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
  9. Preheat to 350 F.
  10. Lightly brush remaining egg wash over loaf & bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to cover the top loosely with aluminum foil towards the end of baking to prevent over-browning. Bake until the loaf, when removed from the pan, sounds hollow when tapped with your fingertips. Cool on a rack.
Glaze
  1. Make glaze by whisking together 2 Tbsp rhubarb filling, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough lemon juice to make the glaze pourable (1-2 tbsp should do it). When bread has slightly cooled, drizzle with glaze if desired.

Guava Cream Cheese Scones

Over the years, I have used guava paste numerous times. I found it was equally as good in both sweet and savory preparations, adding a nice ‘zing’ due to the natural acidity in guava fruit.

This specialty ingredient is made by cooking together guava fruit and sugar until it is very, very thick and then leaving the mixture to dry to remove excess moisture. This results in a paste that keeps well and is very flavorful. Guava paste is typically sold in short, wide cans or plastic packaging.

Guava paste is an ingredient found in many Cuban, Caribbean and South American recipes. A common pairing with cheese as an appetizer or baked into pastries as part of the filling. Also known as goiabada or pasta de guayaba, has a sweet, floral taste lending a distinct and tropical flavor to anything it is used in.

Today, I’m using it in some scones with cream cheese. Should be good!

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Guava Cream Cheese Scones
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a round 8" baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & baking soda. With fingers, cut in cold butter & cream cheese until mixture resembles small peas. Do NOT over work dough. Carefully stir in guava paste cubes with a fork.
  3. In a small cup, beat egg slightly then combine with buttermilk & vanilla. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture, stirring ONLY until combined.
  4. Pour dough into lined baking pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden & tests done. Slice into 8 wedges & serve warm.

English Muffin Shitake Mushroom & Herb Pizza

From a history standpoint, I won’t dive into the origins of the English muffin simply because the origin doesn’t seem to be that clear. Some claim the English muffin is actually an American invention. Others claim it’s English, but with some slight modifications over time. It seems they began as another version of an English crumpet and have been marketed in North America in some form since the late 1850s (they were called toaster crumpets then).

An English muffin is a flat, savory yeasted flatbread, made from wheat flour (in most cases). It is made on a griddle, not in the oven like ‘regular’ muffins would. As with any food there are a ton of variations on the recipe. Their main distinguishing characteristic–although they are smooth on the outside, holes cover the interior surface. Those holes provide little pockets to hold melted butter or drops of marmalade, jam or jelly.

English Muffin Pizza is inspired by the infamous pizza bagels (and/or bagel bites). Pizza bagels didn’t come on the scene until about 1959 and there are actually several claims as to who invented them. The earliest claimed version was a pizza cooked on half of a bagel that was baked without a hole…which is kind of like an English muffin. Could this be the earliest iteration of the English Muffin Pizza?

That being said, English muffins actually can be used in numerous ways such as:
 hamburger buns next time you make burgers
–  a side of garlic bread on pasta night
–  the base of an appetizer instead of crackers
–  in your favorite panini sandwich instead of bread
–  avocado toast with an English muffin

These mushroom pizzas make a great little lunch.

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Shitake Mushroom & Herb Pizza on English Muffins
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Instructions
  1. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mushrooms; sauté 4 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and herbs; continue cooking 1 minute. Stir in sherry; remove from heat.
  2. Toast muffins; place on baking sheet. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; cover with cheese. Top evenly with mushroom mixture & a bit more cheese.
  3. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining herbs.

Savory Sweet Potato Toast w/ Avocado & Poached Egg

Its hard to believe its already Easter Sunday. In North America, many of us like to enjoy or host an Easter brunch. Traditional favorites very often include glazed baked ham, quiche, frittata & French toast casseroles. Of course, there are the classic hard boiled eggs that have been dyed & decorated for the occasion. Many countries make their own signature Easter breads ands buns. The one thing that I always loved about Easter was it signified the coming of ‘Spring’ in our part of the world. Plants were coming to life in the garden, the birds were singing their cheery, little tunes & the stores were filled with beautiful pastel colored Easter ‘things’.

I wanted to come up with something unique for our Easter brunch this year. French toast is always good but I was thinking more along the savory line. Sweet potatoes seem to be one of those polarizing food items, people either love or hate. For most part, I think its the memory of the overly sweet casserole most of us remember from our childhoods. But have you ever thought about using them in a savory context?

I had seen an idea using grated sweet potato patties with avocado and poached eggs. The temptation to kick it up a notch and make a savory sweet potato ‘toast’ for a base become a wonderful Easter brunch for Brion & I.

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Savory Sweet Potato Toast w/ Avocado & Poached Egg
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Savory Sweet Potato Bread
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Savory Sweet Potato Bread
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Instructions
Bread
  1. Pierce sweet potato several times, and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave the wrapped potato 4 - 6 minutes, or until it is soft to the touch & cooked through. Remove from oven, cool slightly, peel & mash. Measure correct amount needed for bread & reserve the rest for another use.
  2. In a small bowl, combine water, milk, sugar & yeast . Allow to sit until yeast is frothy.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour & salt.
  4. In a large bowl, combine sweet potato, butter, black pepper, cumin, coriander, thyme & sage. Taste & adjust seasonings if desired. Add yeast & flour mixtures. Combine well but don't overmix.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface & knead until dough is smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, & set in a draft free place until doubled in bulk.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a flat work surface lightly dusted with flour. Leave to rest about 10 minutes. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Flatten, shape into a loaf & set inside of pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap & set aside to rise.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 F. When dough is about an inch over the top of pan, place in oven & bake about 45 minutes, rotating pan about half way through baking time. Remove from oven & allow to cool completely before slicing. It is a good idea to make bread the day before you want to serve it.
Additional Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place cherry tomatoes in an oven proof dish. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil & roast for about 15 minutes.
  2. Cut avocados in half & peel off skin. Lay one half of the avocado, cut side down, & slice the avocado thinly. Fan out avocado slices so that they form a long line with the slices overlapping each other. Starting from one end, curl avocado slices toward center. Continue curling the avocado slices until you have a 'rose'. Repeat with remaining 3 halves.
  3. Heat a griddle to 350 F. Slice sweet potato bread to your desired thickness. Lightly butter bread slices on both sides. When grill is heated, grill bread on both sides. Place on serving plates, cover & keep warm.
  4. Bring some water to a boil then poach the eggs for about 2 minutes. Drain.
  5. Top grilled savory bread with avocado roses, poached eggs & roasted cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, salt & pepper.
Recipe Notes
  • This dough is very soft so it is a bit tricky to work with. I would imagine if you prefer it to be firmer you could you less yeast. 
  • When working with it , I used a buttered spatula.

Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid

Hot Cross Buns, the sweet roll with a mythical history, are an Easter classic. This simple piece of spiced bread decorated with a cross, while not an extravagant treat, is a global food tradition. Given their long running history, it is no wonder there are so many fables surrounding their origin. From warding off evil spirits to cementing friendships, the stories of hot cross buns can be documented back to 6th century Greece.

While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. Brion & I are extremely fond of these little gems, so every year I enjoy to come up with a new version but still not straying away from the original iconic bun (or bread) taste.

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Hot Cross Cream Cheese Braid
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Instructions
Marinate Fruit
  1. In a bowl with a lid, marinate prepared dried fruit in your choice of alcohol or orange juice overnight or at least 30 minutes.
Sweet Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 Tbsp sugar; allow to sit until frothy.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom & ginger.
  3. In a larger bowl, melt butter slightly; add remaining sugar, beaten egg, vanilla, a portion of the marinated fruit & frothy yeast mixture. Combine then add flour mixture & continue mixing to combine all ingredients.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 15 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more flour. Shape into a ball; place in a greased bowl, turn over once or twice to coat the dough with oil. Cover, let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hours.
Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla & any excess rum drained off fruit until smooth.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly floured work surface or parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12 x 14-inch rectangle, ensure an even thickness of 1/4 inch.
  2. Along one long side of the dough make parallel, 4-inch long cuts that are 1-inch apart (like piano keys), with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Repeat on opposite side, making sure to line up these cuts with those you have already made on the other side.
  3. Spoon all but 1/4 cup cream cheese filling down the center of the rectangle. (Reserve the 1/4 cup of the cream cheese for making crosses on baked braid). Leaving 1-inch on the top & bottom unfilled. Smooth cream cheese mixture then top with remaining marinated fruit.
  4. Begin folding the cut side strips of dough in pairs over the filling at an angle, alternating left, then right, as if you were braiding, until you reach the other end. Tuck the ends underneath the braid.
  5. Transfer to a baking sheet; cover with a loose plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Just before placing braid in the oven, make the egg wash & lightly brush over the top of the braid.
  6. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Check after 15 minutes; if the braid is starting to brown to fast, float a piece of foil, shiny side down, over it. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
Decorating
  1. Place 1/4 cup cream cheese mixture in a small piping bag that has been fitted with a small round tip. Make crosses on braid.
Recipe Notes
  • If you would prefer, mix all the marinated fruit right into the dough instead of putting some in the filling.
  • If you would rather not decorate with some crosses on top, use all cream cheese in the filling, your choice.

Apricot Oat Breakfast Cake

Who can turn down cake for breakfast? It says right there in the recipe that ‘Served warm, it makes a delicious breakfast bread’. Although, bread might be stretching the truth a bit too far. Its cake, let’s be honest.

Oats are like the chameleon of the breakfast table, occupying many forms and disguising themselves as a bevy of morning meal options. The baked oats trend has been converting skeptics in huge numbers these days.

This lightly sweetened, apricot oat cake is a breakfast cake that celebrates apricots. A combination of regular all-purpose flour with oat flour results in the perfect crumb and a lovely flavor.  Because oat flour is surprisingly light and retains moisture makes it perfect for pairing as well with the coarser, grittier texture of cornmeal. The slightly sweeter taste of oat flour not only complements the corn flavor, it also lets you use a little bit less sugar.

There’s just something comforting about breakfast cake in the morning!

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Apricot Oat Breakfast Cake
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spray an 8-inch round baking pan with cooking spray. Combine apricot halves and boiling water and let stand 15 minutes to soften. Drain apricots and arrange in bottom of pan.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together oat flour, white flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In separate bowl, stir together whole egg, egg whites, buttermilk, and olive oil. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Pour egg mixture into well, stirring just until moistened. Pour batter over apricots and smooth top.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • It’s super easy to make your own oat flour. You’ll need a food processor or a good blender, and oats, that’s it! You use raw oats, any type, and process for a few seconds until they turn into a fine powder.... oat flour!
  • TO MAKE OAT FLOUR USE:
  • 2 1/2 cups oats - use steel cut or rolled
  • Put the oats in a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until the oats become a fine powder. This will only take a few seconds in a high speed blender, and a little bit longer in a food processor. Store the oat flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • 1 1/4 cup oats will yield approximately 1 cup flour.

Breakfast Enchilada Bake

ENJOY FAMILY DAY!

First held in the province of Alberta in 1990, Family Day is supposed to reflect the values of family and home that were important to the pioneers who founded Alberta. It was to give workers the opportunity to spend more time with their families to help prevent the erosion of family values in Canadian society.

‘Family Day’ is a public holiday in 5 Canadian provinces, where it is a day off for the general population with schools and most businesses being closed. However, there are some provinces where the holiday is named slightly different and for different reasons.

Family Day was scheduled to fall between New Year’s Day and Good Friday in order to grant another day off between these celebrations as they are approximately three months apart.

This meal seems so appropriate for today. Just put breakfast in the oven, sit back, enjoy a coffee while it bakes. What a great way to start a ‘family day’ together!

Easy to make, a breakfast bake sits in the fridge for several hours or better yet, overnight, so when you pop it in the oven the following morning, all the work will have already been done. Plus, variations abound according to your tastes and favorite ingredients: substitute sausage for bacon (or use both). Forego all meats for a vegetarian version and substitute fresh spinach, roasted peppers, blanched broccoli. Of course, make-ahead breakfast bakes are genius and forgiving; it can use up multiple supplies in your kitchen, appeal to a variety of tastes and be absolutely delicious every time.

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Breakfast Enchilada Bake
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Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add green pepper, onion, garlic & all spices; cook 3-4 minutes or until softened.
  2. Add chicken sausage & cook, stirring frequently, for another 5-6 minutes or until cooked through, breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Once fully cooked, stir in 3/4 cup of cheese.
  3. Spray a 13 X 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. On a work surface, lay out tortillas. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the sausage filling onto one side of the tortillas; roll each tightly. Place seam side down in the baking pan; sprinkle any extra sausage mixture on top.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together eggs & half & half until completely combined. Pour over enchiladas & sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups shredded cheese. Cover with foil & refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Remove chilled enchiladas from fridge, bake for 20 minutes covered, then remove foil & bake for an additional 15 minutes OR until center is set (eggs should no longer be jiggly) & cheese is lightly browned. If you prefer, leave the casserole covered & bake longer, before removing foil. Serve with your choice of toppings.

White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

Chocolate & strawberries not only add a touch of decadence but are the quintessential Valentine treat. These little chocolate lava cakes not only look and taste great, but they’re pretty quick and easy to make. You don’t need any special equipment, just a couple of bowls and a whisk and the recipe only makes two.

As always, I wondered about where the idea had originated. It seems the first known cake with a deliberately runny center is the ‘Tunnel of Fudge Cake’… the second place winner of a Pillsbury bake-off contest in 1966. Invented by Texan homemaker, Ella Helfrich, the cake is a walnut-flecked Bundt cake with a wet fudge center, which Ella achieved by the pretty ingenious inclusion of powdered frosting. The original recipe called for Pillsbury’s Double Dutch Dry Frosting Mix, which would, in the oven, cook into a runny, pudding like tunnel. The cake recipe became a cultural icon and put Bundt pans, (which had been created in the ’50s but were never particularly popular) in mass demand.

In 1987, a chef in New York city, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was credited with ‘inventing’ the lava cake but this has been disputed as Jacques Torres, a French chef & chocolatier, says that the lava cake already existed in France before that time. As time has passed there have been many versions adapted to the original idea which mostly include the variations on the fillings. Instead of the chocolate fillings, other flavors like lemon, caramel, strawberry and orange can be found.

I think these White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes will make the perfect ending for our Valentines supper.

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White Chocolate Strawberry Lava Cakes
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Strawberry Puree
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Strawberry Puree
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Instructions
Strawberry Puree
  1. In a blender, process strawberries then press mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl; discard seeds. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Pour in strained strawberry puree. Allow mixture to come to a boil & bubble until slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
Cake
  1. Melt white chocolate with butter. You can do it in the microwave with 30 second breaks or over a double boiler. Blend well.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter & flour 2 - 6 oz ramekins; set aside.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, egg white, sugar, salt, vanilla, lemon juice & zest.
  4. Add chocolate/butter mixture then flour; combine. Add strawberry puree & coloring (if using); blend.
  5. Divide batter between the 2 ramekins & bake for about 15-20 minutes. Make sure not to OVERBAKE or you won't have the lava effect.
  6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar & serve with any extra puree if you wish. For an extra treat, top with some dipped strawberries.

Chai Spiced Scones

Baked goods and chai spices are a no-brainer in my opinion. The same aromatics, like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger are staples in the pantries of baker’s everywhere.

The original scone was triangular and griddle baked but the exact origin of the word ‘scone’ remains a mystery.

From what I understand, in the UK, scones usually are available in only three flavor profiles: plain, with golden raisins or with cheese. An authentic English or Scottish scone is much like a North American baking powder biscuit.

Freed of cultural baggage and expectations of authenticity, the North American scone is flexible in shape and content. They have evolved into an almost limitless flavor option treat and the recipe has been ‘tweaked’ to make scones more moist and tender. This casting off of tradition may upset some people but such flexibility is key to this tasty self-contained snack.

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Chai Spiced Scones
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Instructions
  1. Prepare baking pan of your choice or just use a baking sheet to make wedges; set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, chai spices & salt. With a pastry blender, cut in cold butter until mixture becomes crumbly.
  3. Make a well in the middle of the mixture & pour in cold buttermilk & vanilla; mix until combined.
  4. If you are making the scones in wedges, place the dough on a piece of parchment paper & pat it into roughly an 8-inch circle. Cut the circle into 8 equal sized wedges. Transfer paper with scones to a baking sheet to be baked. If you wish, make scones in whatever shape you prefer. Place unbaked scones in the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake chilled scones about 20 minutes or until they test done. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  6. While scones are baking & cooling combine a small amount of powdered sugar with milk to make a glaze. Dip each scone into glaze then allow any excess to drip off. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

Saskatoon Clafoutis

Some might consider clafoutis (pronounced kla-foo-tee) just a lazy cook’s way to pie or cake, but its truly luscious comfort food complete with a French pedigree. Born in Limousin, in southern central France, a couple of centuries ago to showcase its fresh cherries. Very likely, the creation of a hurried & harried home cook with a glut of cherries to use up. Traditionally made with unpitted black or tart cherries. The pits supposedly added an almond flavor when baked.

The name clafoutis comes from the verb ‘clafir’, a rustic old word that means ‘to fill’ because after you arrange the fruit on a buttered baking dish, you fill the pan with eggy batter. It bakes into a light, custardy confection with a consistency somewhere between pudding, pancake and soufflé.

Clafoutis is a dessert you need in your life. It is neither difficult nor time consuming and it requires few ingredients.

The first time Brion & I ever tasted clafoutis was actually in France in 2001. Strangely enough, I’ve never got around to making it even though we had enjoyed it.

By using one simple batter recipe, you can make a variety of clafoutis by changing up the fruit and flavorings you use. Of course, there are some who would say that a clafoutis made with any fruit other than cherries would be properly called a ‘flaugnarde’, but what’s in a name when it comes to comfort food!

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Saskatoon Clafoutis
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European
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Batter
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European
Servings
Ingredients
Batter
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Place all batter ingredients into a blender. Blend until well combined.
  3. Butter a large pie dish & sprinkle the 1 Tbsp sugar evenly over the butter. Pour the batter into the dish, then sprinkle the saskatoon berries evenly throughout the mixture. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the surface of the clafoutis & place in the oven.
  4. Bake until the clafoutis is puffy & nicely browned on top, about 35-40 minutes. To check if its done, remove it from the oven & gently giggle the pan. It should shake softly, but not look overly liquid. You can also test with a knife tip to ensure its set.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar if you wish & serve immediately.