A few months earlier this year, I received an email from Reem Falaknaz, an Executive Producer from Noor Dubai TV. To date, it is the most exciting email I have received from a visitor of my blog. She was planning on producing a series of cooking videos under 3 minutes, featuring desserts. These series were to be aired during the Holy month of Ramadan and the theme was desserts with a Middle Eastern take. I was boiling with excitement and called my husband at work right away. With his green signal, I promptly replied saying I would be thrilled to be a part of her project. I started devising ways to spin classic desserts the Middle Eastern way focusing on ingredients integral to Arab cooking. Walnut, tahini, rosewater, honey, figs - the list was endless. I proposed three desserts and Reem had the final say. She chose the dessert I had hoped she would - a dessert with dates.
Dates are perhaps, the most symbolic food of Ramadan and a staple food for the Middle East. As the Aza'an is sounded from the mosques at dusk, with a prayer on the lips, the fast is broken with dates. This stone fruit is highly nutritional and the UAE is abundant with its trees. My favorite kind are the dates which haven't reached their full stage of ripeness. They are still firm and yellow on the top and are chewy, soft and ripe at the bottom. The texture and flavor is a delight being sweet with a hint of crunchy sharpness from the unripened part. Dates stuffed with almonds and pecans and Dibs, a syrup of dates so similar to molasses, drizzled generously on crispy hot Lgeimat is another favorite during Ramadan. I have my annual share of these fried dumplings at Global Village.
So what am I making with dates for my dessert? I am baking Clafoutis. Say it with me - Cla-Fu-Ti. I'd say pronouncing it is the easiest way to put a smile on your face. So what is Clafoutis? Native to France, an egg based pancake-like batter is poured over cherries and baked till puffy and golden, served warm with icing sugar sprinkled on top. Dates were the ideal alternative to a stone fruit that could replace cherries for my Middle-Eastern dessert. With just a few tweaks, I had on mind what could be the recipe for a successful Dates Clafoutis.
Since this was an experimental recipe which I would be making for the first time, I made a batch in individual size pie dishes. Honestly, this was one of the easiest recipes I have baked. The only process that might take a while is stoning the dates and chopping them. Clafoutis connoisseurs insist on leaving the seeds intact on cherries while baking as it enhances the flavour. Considering, the date seeds are much larger than cherries I deseeded them. I don't like picking at forgotten or intentionally kept seeds in any kind of dessert. Imagine you are floating up and away relishing the sweetness and delight of this dessert balloon and then POP, a seed just rattles that experience and your'e jolted out of your sugary senses. At least, that's how I feel. So no seeds it is. From then, a bit of flour, a couple of whisked wholesome eggs and a sprinkling of spices and the batter is ready for the oven.
After four rescheduled dates, Reem came home to shoot my dessert. The series were being shot without head shots or voice. After half an hour of setup, we finally began shooting. I got a first-hand experience into the effort that is required for production and filming of cookery videos. However, it was an experience of a lifetime that had my heart singing, having achieved this milestone so early into my blogging days. For three hours, the soft-spoken Reem gave precise directions and simultaneously shot me preparing the Clafoutis amidst laughter and mock seriousness.
Among the perks of being one of the last videos to be shot is having the privilege of viewing videos that Reem had finished editing. I got to see a couple of Fooderati Arabia bloggers' video and fell in love with Reems' quiet style of working and her choice of palette with soothing pastel colors. The second privilege I had was that I got to shoot my dessert straight out of the oven. The room wafted with the heady fragrance of cinnamon which was coincidentally a favourite for both of us.
I would recommend Clafoutis as a great recipe for a lazy morning breakfast or a weekend brunch. If you prep the dates the night before, then more than half the work is done. While you leave it to bake you could prepare the other dishes, make fresh orange juice, your favourite coffee and set the table. The clafoutis will be ready and the wafting cinnamon will accompany a great meal and conversation.
And here it is, my video on Date Clafoutis.
This is such a food-blogger-swelling-in-pride moment for me. I'd like to thank Reem for approaching me to be a part of her production. It was a pleasure working and watching her work. I wish her the very best for her future.
P.S. There's more! What next you ask? You'll find out soon. For now, let me share my recipe with you.
Clafoutis batter adapted from Joy Of Baking
- 300g Fresh Dates, washed and pitted
- 60g All-Purpose Flour
- 90g Sugar
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 250 ml, Fresh Milk
- 25 g Unsalted Butter, melted
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- Icing sugar, to dust
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
- Brush a shallow ovenproof dish or pie plate with melted butter.
- Slice the dates to bite size pieces.
- Spread the dates into the dish in a single layer.
- Sift the flour into a bowl, add sugar and make a well in the centre. Gradually add the combined eggs, milk and butter, whisking until smooth and free of lumps. DO NOT over mix the batter.
- Combine the vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg powders and mix well.
- Pour the batter over the dates and bake for 40minutes or until the batter is risen and golden.
- Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar.
- Serve immediately.
- For a zesty addition, drizzle 2 teaspoons of orange juice over dates before adding the batter.
- If you would like to bake individual servings as shown above, reduce the baking time according to the size of your baking dish. The ones pictured above took 25 minutes. The key is to make sure the batter has puffed golden and pulls away slightly from the sides.
Have a good food day!