Monday 8 June 2009
I read recently an article by Harold Magee, which in turn was quoting the fact that Heston Blumenthal uses vodka as 50% of the liquid content when making batter in which to fry fish. He maintains that it produces a much crisper result, and the fact that the alcohol will evaporate more quickly than water clearly supported the hypothesis. Since I believe that frying battered fish is best left to commercial establishments with a ready supply of newspaper and malt vinegar, I wasn't interested to follow his advice directly - but since batter is batter is batter, it seemed worth experimenting with a clafouti recipe to see whether what he says is indeed corrrect. Any relatively flavourless 'white' alcohol will work in the same way as vodka, and so - having industrial quantities of it lying around, I substituted grappa.
It certainly works. The cooked batter was light and held together very well, with a beautifully crisp top. The flavour of grappa was definitely present, and - as the Technical dept said - the combination of grappa with cherry and chocolate produced an all round 'very grown-up' result. If, like me, you make the batter in advance and then give it a final whizz just before putting the clafoutis in the oven as the main course is going to table, then leave it until this point to add the grappa - if you do it earlier, the volatiles within it will just evaporate as the batter sits around.
For two individual clafoutis:
Ingredients: 24 cherries, pitted; 1 egg; 40g butter; 40g flour; 1 tsp vanilla essence; 1 tbs chocolate powder; 50 ml milk; 50 ml grappa; 30g sugar (or Splenda); icing sugar, to serve (optional).
1. Arrange the pitted cherries in two greased egg dishes.
2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and allow it to cool. Add this to all of the other ingredients in a blender jar and process for ten seconds or so, to produce a thickish homogenised batter.
4. Pour the batter over and around the cherries - try and do it so that the cherries remain fairly evenly spaced and don't all get pushed to the edge of the dish.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the batter is puffed and crisp.
Dust with icing sugar, and serve immediately.