Clafoutis, or Flaugnarde, or whatever

Heres another fave of ours that’s perfect for this time of year, when berries and stone fruit are at their prime. Clafoutis, (clah foo tee), hails from the Limousin region of central France – they’re delicious and incredibly easy to make. Clafoutis are one of the most versatile desserts I know of, and super easy to make.

This is a very old creation, around in some form since fire and flour found each other. A big deal dessert in the 1800s, they spread across Europe, taking advantage of whatever favorite fruit was ripe locally. The classic Limousin version is made with unpitted cherries, but frankly, that’s a tradition I can do without – if, as claimed, the stones add a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish, I say just bake the thing in clay and keep your dental work intact.

The basic ingredients are pretty much what you’d use to make pancakes, and not too far off from custard or Yorkshire pudding, yet clafoutis is unique. Cherries are just the starting point – berries, plums, apricots, nectarines, peaches are all stellar, and in the fall, apples and pears are too, (how about an apple and extra sharp cheddar version?). Nuts go great with many of those fruit options – The traditional version uses almonds, but hazelnuts, cashews and walnuts are all solid bets.

Since this is a famous regional French dish, I do have to point out that calling anything made with fruit other than cherries a clafoutis is pas correct, because, well – it’s not – That would be a flaugnarde, (Flûn-yard). Yes, it’s exactly the same thing with different fruit – and yes, it’s nitpicky, but hey – now you have two cool French words to flash while making a delicious dessert.

I’ve done the recipe we’ll share with a bunch of different things, and varied the fruit content from 2 to almost 3 cups – while the latter versions were obviously, well, fruitier, they all were delicious and baked up just fine. If you pump up the fruit ratio, add baking time, and you’ll be fine. That’s another lovely aspect of the dish – you can eyeball things after making a few of these, which makes it a perfect last minute dessert.

You’ll note that there are no leavening agents in the dish. Just as with a pancake or a Yorkshire pudding, you want to get some air into the batter – small bubbles get trapped in the lattice of flour, sugar, and egg and expand as the dish bakes, giving you an admirable rise – from maybe an inch deep as batter, you’ll easily top a 2.5” baking dish when it’s done. Julia Child used a blender to do this, and advocated spreading a little batter over the bottom of the baking pan and cooking that a bit before adding fruit, nuts, etc. I love Julia with all my heart, but this is in essence a peasant dish, and you needn’t go to all that trouble – an immersion blender does a fabulous job and is much easier to clean. I tried the thin layer pre-cook, and frankly found zero appreciable difference from skipping that step.


1. All purpose flour is your best choice – it’s got the right amount of protein/gluten to make a nice stretchy batter happen.

2. If you live where you can get Rainier cherries in season, there is no finer dessert on this earth.

Urban Clafoutis / Flaugnarde

2 – 2 1/2 Cups fresh Fruit

3 large Eggs

1 Cup Whole Milk

2/3 Cup Bakers Sugar

1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 Tablespoon Honey

3 Tablespoons Nuts

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract (or liqueur)

Pinch of Salt.

2 Tablespoons Turbinado Sugar

Measure out milk and leave out at room temp – same with the eggs.

Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle slot.

Lightly butter a baking dish, (anything around 10” x 7” or 11” x 8” works great).

Add a tablespoon of flour to the dish and tap it around to lightly coat the butter. Turn the pan over the sink and tap out any excess flour.

Pit any stone fruit. Cherries can stay whole, as can berries – rough chop larger fruit.

Rough chop nuts – if you have raw, a quick toast in a hot skillet until they turn golden brown and fragrant is a nice touch.

Combine sugar and honey with the eggs, and whisk to a smooth blend.

Add flour and salt to the wet mix and whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Add the milk, vanilla and almond extract, and whisk smooth.

Process the batter with a stick blender for about a minute, until lots of small bubbles form.

Scatter fruit and toasted nuts over the bottom of the baking pan.

Pour the batter over the fruit and nuts.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180° and sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the top of the dish.

Bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the top of the clafoutis or flaugnarde, or whatever you wanna call it is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.

It beats the heck outa granola bars for breakfast the next day, if any of it survives that long.

Brown Butter, Oatmeal, Cranberry & Pecan Cookies

We don’t eat a ton of sweets, but when we do, we lean toward cookies more often than not. Building these always begins with a discussion of a main theme, and then branches out into what we’ve got that would go well with such. Last nights foray lead to an exquisite bite, a Brown Butter Oatmeal Cranberry Pecan Cookie.

Ya gotta make sure they’re good right after they come out, right?

Oatmeal is always a winner, far as I’m concerned – it makes a cookie chewier and a bit more wholesome than flour alone – That was our opening bid for this creation.

Next came dried cranberries hiding in the pantry, and finally, some incredible Texas pecans gifted to us by dear friends Bob and Margot Wieneke.

The finishing touches included browned butter, which goes so well in my go-to cornbread, and Mexican cane sugar – that stuff retains a delightful hint of the stuff it’s made of – something plain old white sugar can’t do.

There’s a bit more egg than usual, to stand up to the oatmeal and bind everything nicely. Good quality vanilla bean paste makes a nice touch as well.

We used pastry flour, which is lower in gluten than All Purpose, and yields a chewier cookie – you could sure use AP if you prefer that.

You can and should tweak this thing to your liking, based on a favorite nut and/or dried fruit – and when you do, show us your work!

This recipe will make about 36 cookies, because if you’re gonna do something, do it right, (awww you can halve it if you want to).

Urban’s Brown Butter Oatmeal, Cranberry & Pecan Cookies

2 2/3 Cups Pastry Flour

1 1/2 Cups Unsalted Butter

1 1/2 Cups Mexican Cane Sugar

1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

1 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats

1 Cup dried Cranberries

1 Cup Pecans

4 Eggs

2 teaspoon Vanilla Paste

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Bring all ingredients to room temperature before starting construction.

If your dried fruit and nuts are whole, chop them into a rough dice.

Measure and sift flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.

In a second bowl, combine the Mexican and brown sugars and whisk to incorporate.

In a heavy sauce pan over medium heat, add the butter, and allow to melt and heat through.

The butter will foam – that’s the excess water boiling off – whisk gently and steadily until the butter is light golden in color and smells nutty.

Remove butter from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two.

Add butter to the sugar blend and whisk briskly – even melted butter will cream when mixed with sugar, adding tiny air bubbles to the blend which helps make a lighter cookie.

Crack two whole eggs and two egg yolks into the butter and sugar blend – (freeze extra egg whites in an airtight container for future projects).

Add the vanilla paste to the wet mix and whisk to incorporate thoroughly.

Add the flour mix and oatmeal to the wet mix and stir well with a wooden spoon to incorporate.

Add cranberries and pecans and stir well to incorporate.

Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, (up to overnight if you can wait that long).

Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle slot.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

We use a 2 tablespoon measure for the size you see herein. Scoop a ball of dough and plop them down a couple of inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned and the centers have risen notably.

Remove from oven and let cool for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Urban’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout Flan

Amongst other things, my Tribal Brother, Grant Goltz is a brewer of some renown. Every year at StringFest, the annual gathering of our music, lutherie, arts, and local tribes in Hackensack, Minnesota, (just ‘Hack’ if you’re a hip local), there are endless cold kegs of his stuff on tap.

This year, he handed me a cup of syrupy, dark stuff and said, ‘try this!’ It was a seven year old double chocolate milk stout, with chocolate nibs and lactose (milk sugar) included in the brewing process. This stuff was amazing, with dense layers of coffee and chocolate notes within.

Lissa King, ‘the Martha Stewart of Northern Minnesota’, (which is bullshit – she’s way better than Stewart), took some home and made cake and cupcakes with it – those showed up the next night for dessert, and were stunning, indeed.

I immediately thought of flan when I tasted it, and came up with this recipe, which I wrote, refined, and tested on everybody Sunday night – it blew us all away. It’s got fresh stout in the caramel, reduced stout in the body of the flan, and the color, taste and scent are knockout punches. Try making this with your favorite stout, and let me know how it goes.

Urban’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout Flan

For the Caramel

2/3 cup Bakers Sugar

1/3 Cup Reduced Stout

2 finger Pinch fine Salt

For the Custard

4 Large Eggs

2 Egg Yolks

1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk

1 Cup Heavy Cream

1/2 Cup Bakers Sugar

1 Cup of Stout (reduced to 1/2 cup – see below)

1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste (or 1 Tablespoon Extract, or 1/2 scraped Bean)

1/2 teaspoon fine Salt

Open and pour your chosen Stout, then let it sit while you work through prep (to kill off some of the carbonation).

Add 1 cup of Stout to a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Reduce to a bare simmer when the stout starts to boil, and simmer until the volume is reduced by half. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl or cup to cool.

Pull a 8” or 9” cake pan, or six 3” ramekins, plus something big enough to act as a water bath for whatever you’ve chosen to bake in – a big roasting pan on braiser works great for that.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, cream, and sugar – whisk to thoroughly incorporate, then scald, (heat only until tiny bubbles start to form at the edge of the mixture) – Remove from heat, pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, yolks, vanilla, and reduced stout – whisk to incorporate.

Add cooled milk and sugar blend to the egg blend, and process with a stick blender until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute.

Preheat oven to 350° F and set a rack in the middle position.
Check the height of your baking pan versus the water bath vessel, then add enough water to the bath so that water level will sit about 3/4 way up your baking pan. Slide the pan onto the middle rack.

In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, add 2/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup of unreduced stout. Stir to thoroughly combine and continue stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Continue to stir steadily, until the caramel starts to brown, about 3-5 minutes.

NOTE – Using stout instead of water means there’s a lot more stuff in the mix for the sugar to react with as it heats up. This blend will foam aggressively, and keep doing so – So you must lift the pan from the heat and stir constantly until the foaming subsides.

Keep the pan close enough to not lose heat, but far enough away that foaming is minimal – if you don’t, you’ll get molten sugar boiling out of the pan, which is not good at all.

Reduce heat to low and continue simmering and stirring constantly until the caramel is golden brown, about another 1-2 minutes.

Remove caramel from heat and carefully pour into your pan or ramekins, then gently swirl the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Set the pan aside.

Whisk the custard base to confirm that everything is still fully incorporated.

Fill your pan or ramekins with the custard mix to within about 1/2” of the top, then cover and seal tightly with metal foil.

Carefully transfer filled pan or ramekins to the water bath vessel.

Bake at 350° F for 35 minutes.

Open the oven and check the flan by giving the pan or ramekins a gentle shake – you should get a little shimmy in the middle, but overall it should be quite firm. If you need to go another 5 minutes or so, that’s A-OK.

Very carefully slide the rack out and gently remove your pan or ramekins to a cooling rack – allow the flan to cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, cover with a plate sized larger than the top of the pan or ramekins, and carefully flip the whole deal over. Slowly pull the pan or ramekins and viola – you’ve got a stunningly good dessert.

We Got a Winnah!

A couple of weeks ago, an old friend PM’d me to say that the local paper, the Bellingham Herald, was running a national holiday recipe contest, and thought I might be interested.

I allowed that I was, and then noticed that the deadline for submissions was that very day. I thought about if for a sec, and what I figured was the perfect thing came to mind.

Back in 2017, I did a Thanksgiving Sides & Sweets post, and Pumpkin Flan was found therein. I took a look at that, edited it a bit, (as in, tweaked for a mass audience), rummaged around and found an image of that glorious stuff, and sent it in.

Urban’s Pumpkin Flan

The contest was run nationally by McClatchy, so to be honest, I really didn’t expect anything to come of it.

I was wrong, in the best sense of the word. I ended up taking the local dessert prize, and I won a hundred bucks to boot. I’m kind of ridiculously thrilled.

Quick and Easy Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

I’ll freely admit, I love strawberries and rhubarb together, and right now, t’is the season here in western Washington state. The you-pick fields are in play for the former, and the latter is fat and sassy pretty much everywhere. Seems like a good time for a quick and easy strawberry rhubarb bar.

I love the concept of dessert –  something a little rich, a little sweet – just right to finish off a meal. What I don’t love is stuff that’s too sweet or too much. Dessert should put a cap on a great meal, not bury it. I think that’s why I like small bites of something with distinct tartness, as much or more than sweet – That makes dessert more like a between course palate cleanser than anything, and I guess that’s why I love the combination of strawberries and rhubarb.

Stopping for fresh berries

Strawberries, even at their most glorious ripeness, still have that slightly sour, tangy note that makes them far more interesting than sweet alone. The problem with them is the fact that you can get them year round, which translates to the fact that they suck a lot of the time. April through June, pretty much wherever you are, is the natural peak season for them, and that’s when I get excited.

Stopping for fresh berries

I stopped by our closest provider this morning and grabbed a quart, fresh from the field, which is right beside the sales shack. In the image below, you’ve got fresh local berries to the left and production grocery store berries to the right. Obvious differences, right? The store bought berries look spectacular – big and uniform. They also happen to not taste half as good as the worst berry in that locally picked quart, so…

Fresh local berries versus big store stuff - No contest

Rhubarb is, culinarily, a bit mysterious. Where it first came from is basically unknown – It showed up as a vegetable crop in Europe and Scandinavia in the early 18th century – before that, it was grown medicinally, mostly for digestive issues. And it is a vegetable engaged in fruit-like activity, by the way – it’s kinda like the mirror image of tomatoes in that regard. As far as availability goes, there’s hot house grown and farm grown, and you want the latter, without question. Better yet, grow your own – both strawberries and rhubarb really like full sun, so you can plant a mixed bed of deliciousness that’ll look great to boot. Rhubarb pairs well with raspberries, marion berries, blackberries, and blueberries too, FYI.

Fresh rhubarb

Just as with celery, you want rhubarb stalks that are firm and maybe 1” to 1 1/2” thick, with smaller leaves, if you can find them with such. If they’re floppy, or dry and somewhat hollow in the middle, they’re no good. Rhubarb stalks can be eaten raw – They’re like celery in texture, but with a very strong, bitter-tart taste – really quite delightful in a salad. Contrary to common belief, the color doesn’t really matter – Because of variety, they may be green, red, speckled, or pink – If they’re well grown, tasty varieties, and fresh, they’ll be good to eat. We do not eat the leaves, however – they contain high concentration of oxalis acid, which will cause catastrophic liver failure in humans.

I love pie, but it doesn’t last long, and it’s not always conducive to a quick, small snack – So I really like these bars as an alternative. They’re super easy to make, and they store and transport well. This recipe will make a batch big enough for a 9” x 13” baking pan, yielding roughly 16-20 large bars. You can cut the recipe in half for a smaller run if you like.


Urban’s Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

2 Cups Steel Cut Rolled Oats

2 Cups fine diced Rhubarb

2 Cups fine diced Strawberries 

1 1/2 Cups Pastry Flour (All Purpose will do)

1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

12 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1/4 Cup Agave Nectar (or good local Honey, as you prefer)

1 small fresh Lemon

1 small fresh Orange

2 teaspoons Arrowroot

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste (good quality extract is fine)

1/2 teaspoon Salt


Preheat oven to 375° F and set a rack in the middle slot.

You don’t need to grease or flour the pan for these bars – There’s enough fat in the recipe to do the job just fine.

building strawberry rhubarb bars

Measure the oats, the flour, the brown sugar, and the salt and toss those all into the baking pan. Mix by hand to thoroughly incorporate.

building strawberry rhubarb bars

In a sauce pan over low heat, melt the butter.

Pour melted butter over the bar mixture.

building strawberry rhubarb bars

Mix by hand, (or with a wooden spoon if you prefer – I like to feel what’s going on), to incorporate the butter, until the batter starts to clump. If the batter feels really soft and sticky, add a couple more tablespoons of flour to firm things up.

Reserve a one cup measure of the batter, then evenly press the remaining into the base of the baking pan.

Zest lemon and orange, cut both into quarters. Squeeze and reserve one tablespoon worth of lemon and orange juices, and reserve the zest.

building strawberry rhubarb bars

In a measuring cup, combine lemon juice, orange juice, agave nectar, vanilla, and arrowroot. Stir with a fork to thoroughly incorporate – This stuff will smell absolutely incredible, by the way…

building strawberry rhubarb bars

Thoroughly rinse, trim and fine dice rhubarb and strawberries. Combine these with the lemon and orange zest in a mixing bowl.

Evenly spread half the fruit blend over the batter in the baking pan.

Evenly sprinkle about half of the lemon juice/agave/vanilla/arrowroot mixture over the fruit.

Evenly crumble the reserved cup of batter over the fruit.

Evenly spread remaining fruit and remaining juice blend over that last layer of batter.

Strawberry rhubarb bars assembled and ready to bake

Bake for 40-50 minutes until the fruit blend is bubbling nicely and exposed crumble is golden brown.

Urban’s Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting bars – This will make sure they firm up nicely and cut well.

Store bars refrigerated, in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.