A few weeks ago I was in Galway for my annual freelance editing talk at the university. As a change from the hotel we usually stay at we went to the Heron’s Rest B&B instead, which is famous for owner Sorcha Malloy’s breakfasts. The menu is seasonal, but when we were there in October it included pearl barley porridge with apple syrup, dates and toasted almonds; scallops and black pudding with roast smoked paprika salsa; or poached eggs on fresh Burren greens with Gubbeen chorizo. And that’s in addition to the fresh bread and homemade jams, Irish farmhouse cheeses and poached fruits that are already set out on the table when you come down in the morning.
My friend ordered a clafoutis, made with the last of the season’s raspberries, which came in an individual heart-shaped Le Creuset casserole dish. The first thing I thought when Sorcha brought it to the table was how much my kids would like it, so I started experimenting at home the next week. By then it was November and apples seemed more fitting than raspberries, so I developed this caramel apple version. Clafoutis is a French dessert, but I’ve given it an Irish twist with a splash of whiskey. It’s decadent enough to serve if you’re having friends over for Sunday brunch, but easy enough to make for a weekday breakfast before school, especially if you prepare the apples the night before. Either way, there’s nothing like a little whiskey to get you going on a cold winter morning.
Caramel Apple and Irish Whiskey Clafoutis
Serves 4 to 6
If you cook the apples the night before and stash them in the fridge overnight, this would take only minutes to pull together in the morning. Just reheat the apples to loosen up the caramel sauce again, if necessary. You could also use brandy or calvados instead of the whiskey. Clafoutis have a tendency to sink soon after they come out of the oven, which can make them quite dense (but no less delicious). If you want it to be a bit lighter and airier and hold its shape better, add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the dry ingredients.
for the batter:
80 g (2/3 cup) flour
75 g (1/3 cup) sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 large eggs
100 g (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
250 ml (1 cup) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
for the caramel apples:
30 g (2 tablespoons) butter
4 crisp eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
60 g (1/3 cup) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 or 3 tablespoons Irish whiskey
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Butter a 25 cm (10 inch) pie plate or cast iron skillet or large individual ramekins.
To make the caramel apples, melt a knob of butter in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s sizzling, reduce the heat to medium and tip in the apples, sugar and cinnamon, stirring to coat the apples in the butter and sugar. Cook the apples for about 5 minutes, until they have softened and the sugar has turned syrupy. Keep warm.
Whisk the flour, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, melted butter, milk and vanilla. Pour half of the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking until it looks like a paste, then add in the rest of the liquid, whisking until the batter is smooth and well blended. (Alternatively, you could just place all the batter ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth.)
Place the pie plate or skillet on a baking sheet to catch any drips when the clafoutis is cooking in the oven. Pour in the batter, then using a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to the plate or skillet, leaving as much of the caramel sauce in the pan as you can and making sure the apples are evenly distributed. Bake the clafoutis in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the clafoutis is puffed up and golden brown and the centre is set.
About 5 minutes before the clafoutis is done, reheat the caramel in the pan to loosen it again, then stir in the whiskey and allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Serve the clafoutis warm with the caramel whiskey sauce drizzled over.