This is prime recipe sharing season! It’s probably when we’re thinking about cooking and baking more than any other time of the year. I really appreciate that Thanksgiving is one holiday where commercialism seems to have less of an impact. Tradition has it that lots of people are doing their own cooking and making family recipes, and with food as the focus of this occasion there is less purchasing of other “stuff.” No gifts, costumes, or elaborate paraphernalia. Decorations are minimal. Perhaps the pilgrim salt and pepper shakers from Grandma, or the turkey placemats the kids made in school, but for most, it seems, Thanksgiving is about the food–and I, for one, appreciate that about this holiday.
Most of us will have some of our own traditional dishes to prepare–or maybe the entire meal is prescribed by precedent. My mother’s Thanksgiving meal was the same every year, item by item–from the broccoli casserole and her cornmeal stuffing and the Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, to the sweet potato souffle, placed in orange rinds that were cut with pinking shears, and topped with marshmallows broiled to golden brown perfection. And let me tell you that every one of those dishes was anticipated with delight, and every bite cherished for its place in the tableau of the family holiday. God forbid that any one of those recipes was varied or changed in the slightest.
The Thanksgiving recipe I’m sharing with you this month, however, is one from the family I married into 40 years ago. This Sally Lunn Bread is a favorite at Thanksgiving, and this one is straight from the recipe box gifted to us years ago by my mother-in-law, Dorothy. It’s a yeast bread, very slightly sweet and eggy, something like a brioche–just right for a holiday meal. The family tradition is to bake it in a bundt pan, so it’s a lovely addition to the table as well.
And because I’m celebrating a good year for my pear tree, I’m sharing another recipe that comes from our friend Kate Hill, the American chef who has lived in the Gascony region of France for the past thirty years. You can hear her story on Episode #55 of The Good Dirt (add link) –and you might remember that I shared her tomato tart in August. Anyway, this recipe is a clafoutis, or a French custard cake with fruit. You can make it with all different kinds of fruits, but the pears were SO good this year, such a nice texture and SO juicy, that I wanted to do something a little bit special with them.
Sally Lunn Bread
- 1 pkg active dry yeast
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup warm water (not hot)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup warm milk
- 4-⅓ cups sifted flour
- ½ cup shortening
- 1-¼ tsp salt
- Dissolve yeast in warm water; add warm milk and set aside.
- Cream shortening and sugar.
- Add eggs and mix well.
- Sift flour and salt and add to shortening mixture alternately with yeast mixture.
- Knead lightly and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
- Punch down, knead lightly again and put into a well greased bundt cake pan.
- Let rise for about 1 hour. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour.
Note: a 9-inch angel food pan or a 10-inch ring mold work as well
Clafoutis aux Fruits: custard-cake with fruit
From Kate Hill
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Both custard and cake, this eggy dessert is a favorite in France, especially throughout the Gascon countryside. In the north of France, clafoutis is made with cherries in season, pears, or other fruit. But in Gascony, where succulent preserved plums abound year-round, the jam-like texture of slow-baked prunes steeped in Armagnac adds a chewy richness to this homey dessert. In mid-summer, I’ll choose ripe apricots over prunes.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 lb (225 g) soft pitted prunes, or other ripe fruit (plums, cherries, figs, peaches, apricots)
- 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) Armagnac, rum or brandy
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 5 eggs
- 3 cups (24 fl oz/720 ml) milk
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter a shallow one and a 1/2-quart baking dish and powder with sugar or flour.
- Prepare fruit—halve, remove pits, peel as necessary, and sprinkle with the armagnac, brandy, or rum.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugar. Beat the eggs in another bowl. Pour the beaten eggs into the flour and sugar and, with a whisk, add the milk little by little until all is well mixed.
- Arrange the ripe fruit in the pan in an even layer. Pour any leftover Armagnac into the batter and mix.
- Pour the batter carefully around and over the fruit without disturbing them.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes or until just set. A knife inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Cool completely and serve from the pan or unmold on a serving platter. This will be just as delicious served the next day as the fruit continues to perfume the “cake.”