It occurred to me the other day that anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me in the last two years probably knows I like to cook, either because I bring it up in conversation or because I'm pushing a homemade treat under their nose with a hopeful look in my eyes at the first available opportunity. I can't help it. Cooking just brings me so much joy. For me, being alone in the kitchen with a few fresh ingredients a couple of times a week is cathartic. As I stand there chopping, whisking, kneading, and sautéing, the things in this world that burden me most start to melt away. For a short while I can forget about that all-important career path, my progress on the Grow Up--Get Married--Have Babies scale, and those pesky little "what-ifs" that like to hide in the corners of my mind.
Yes, for me, the culinary arts have restorative powers. Occasionally I'll take on a task that is a bit too big given other constraints, but even those frazzled moments are forgotten as soon as the next successful dish comes out of the oven. As time passes you'll not only see more successful dishes on Dulcedo, but also more original recipes, evidence of my natural progression on the culinary learning curve. However, I'll seldom venture off the recipe-following path without having tried a similar recipe by a more experienced cook first. Kitchen failures can be disheartening, so this is my way of preventing them.
Donna Hay, like Martha, Ina, Dorie, and others, is certainly a master at her craft. I've been wanting to try one of her recipes for quite some time. Coincidentally, I've also been waiting for spring to try my hand at a clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-tee), so when the 19th round of Hay Hay it's Donna Day (hosted by Bron Marshall) was announced as the clafoutis edition, I figured there couldn't be a better time to cross both of those tasks off of my to-do list. I made some significant changes to the original recipe because I desperately wanted to use apricots and caramelized bananas together. (One of things I'm getting pretty good at is knowing what a finished dish will taste like before I actually make it.) I think my alterations worked out well. The finished clafoutis was dense but not heavy, with hints of caramel and juicy bites of fresh fruit. It was pleasantly sweet and pleasing to the eye -- successful on all fronts!
Apricot & Caramelized Banana Clafoutis
Adapted from a Donna Hay recipe and a recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
4 medium bananas, ripe but still firm, sliced into 1/4" thick rounds
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, at room temperature
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cream
3 ripe apricots, peeled, halved, and pits removed
Fresh raspberries for serving
Place 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a large skillet. Cook over high heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until sugar just begins to caramelize. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of butter. Add bananas to skillet in a single layer and cook until bottoms are browned, 1-2 minutes. Flip banana slices over and cook until bananas are caramelized on both sides, another 1-2 minutes. This is what your caramelized bananas will look like. Transfer bananas to a separate plate and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 355 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and superfine sugar. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, eggs, and cream. Whisk in the flour mixture until combined.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to a 10" oven-safe skillet and cook over medium heat until melted. Pour half the batter into the pan and then place 3/4 of the caramelized banana slices in a layer on top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter mixture into the pan and top with the apricot halves. Bake until puffed and cooked through, about 40 minutes.
Top clafoutis with fresh raspberries and remaining 1/4 caramelized banana slices. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.