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It made an impression

I had to get a new computer last week, one of few life events with the power to make a person feel both elated and completely bankrupt. After I brought it home, while I waited for my blood pressure to stabilize, I combed through the files that had been on my old computer and happened to find a document that I had forgotten, a recipe for a brown sugar clafoutis with pears. BROWN SUGAR CLAFOUTIS! WITH PEARS! I made the clafoutis last week, and again yesterday, and then I hustled over here to tell you about it with an oddly colored iPhone photo of my leftovers.

I had clafoutis for the first time when I was 23. It came to the table in a skillet the size of a salad plate, and where it met the pan, it rose up like an aspiring souffle. It made an impression.

I was working in France that year, teaching English in a public school outside of Paris. It was a very part-time gig with very part-time pay, and most nights, I cooked at home, in the studio apartment I rented in the 11th arrondissement, on a two-burner stove in an alcove between my bed and the front door. My landlord and his wife, who lived next door, told me that they played a game of guessing what I was cooking each night (tomato soup? ratatouille? bizarrely spiced packaged tofu burgers from Naturalia, the health food store?), based on the smells that filtered through the wall between our apartments. But when I was out in the neighborhood, I liked to read the menus of restaurants I passed, and I kept a list of the ones that looked good, for when friends or family came to visit.

My dad came in mid-May - this was 2002 - about two weeks before my work contract was up. Some days, we went to museums and walked around, but on the days when I was working, we would meet up later, for a drink and dinner. He was always waiting for me on the terrace of one of the cafes on Place de la Bastille, waving his book of crossword puzzles to catch my eye, wearing the khaki fly fisherman’s vest that he wore everywhere, even in Paris. We would order glasses of white wine and eat salted peanuts and try to eavesdrop on other patrons, and then we would go somewhere for dinner.

The clafoutis came midway through his stay, at a restaurant called Le Repaire de Cartouche. I had wanted to eat there for months. It was in my neighborhood, a small split-level bistro trimmed in dark wood and faded murals. I had made a reservation for eight o’clock, and we were seated in the upper room. By local standards, we were eating early, and the place was barely awake. The dining room was otherwise populated only by an elderly couple in the corner. The waiter set down a ceramic pot of rillettes and a basket of warm bread, and we ordered a carafe of wine. We both ordered fish, and then we decided to share a rhubarb clafoutis.

I had read about clafoutis in a cookbook, and I knew that it was from south-central France, a cross between a baked pancake, a flan, and a soufflé, usually dotted with cherries. It’s not fancy, and it’s not really restaurant food. It’s grandmother cooking, a dish you serve not to impress people, but to feed them. But here it was on the menu of a bistro in Paris, so we ordered it.

It goes without saying that it was beautiful, the way the custard rose at the edges and rumpled back onto itself. We tore into it. It was creamy but light, the rhubarb stewed nearly to jam.  My father scooted his chair closer to the table, and I don’t think we spoke at all while we ate it, not until the server came to clear away our plates.

I’ve made a lot of clafoutis in the years since, some of them pretty bad. The basic ingredients are milk, eggs, sugar, flour, and fruit, but depending on the proportions, clafoutis can wind up bland, too sweet, or with the textural appeal of a rubber band. Even among the good ones, there are different styles: some are cakey, while others lean closer to custard. I like mine in the custardy vein, with just enough flour to bind the batter.  Actually, you could call the recipe that follows a Brown Sugar Baked Custard with Pears. I started to, but it screwed up my story about the rhubarb clafoutis, so clafoutis it is. You do whatever you want.

Clafoutis seems to have been designed for summer fruit: berries and cherries and sliced stone fruits, anything soft and juicy. In late spring, stewed rhubarb is nice. But I also like to make it in the cold months, with pears. I’ve written before about a clafoutis recipe, and for a while, that was my usual one. It was sweetened with regular granulated sugar, as most are. But a few years ago, I tried an experiment: I had bought a giant bag of brown sugar on sale, and I decided to use it in a clafoutis. Whizzed in the blender, the batter turned the color of coffee with milk, and as it baked, the kitchen smelled like butterscotch. The custard was firm but silky, a texture I want to call squidgy, and had a darker, caramelly sweetness that felt particularly right with pears. It’s nice warm, but if I were you, I’d try to wait until it’s cold - I mean really cold, fridge-cold.  I like it best the morning after it’s baked, actually, as a dessert after breakfast. And now you know all my secrets.

Happy week.

P.S. Go drink a New York Sour.

Brown Sugar Clafoutis with Pears

I use golden brown sugar here, because it’s what I usually have, but if you have dark brown sugar, go ahead and try it. And then let me know how it is.  Also, I know this seems like a lot of sugar, but trust me.

Butter, for greasing the pan
About 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, for dusting the pan
1 large (about 225 to 285 grams, or 8 to 10 ounces) ripe pear
1 ¼ cups (295 ml) whole milk
1 cup (155 g) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9 ½-inch pie plate and dust it lightly with granulated sugar. Shake out any excess.

Peel and core the pear, and slice it thinly. (I cut mine into 12 to 14 slices.) Arrange them on the bottom of the prepared pan.

In the jar of a blender, combine the milk through flour. Blend on high speed for 1 minute (stopping once, if needed, to scrape down any flour that may stick to the sides of the jar). Pour the batter over the pears.

Bake until the custard is puffed and golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. The custard will deflate a little as it cools.

Serve at room temperature or - my preference - chilled.

Yield: 6 servings


Anonymous Molly said...

Beautiful post with such a warm memory. All the cherry clafloutis recipes say that in France, the only real way to serve clafloutis is not to pit the cherries, and place a small dish for your guests to spit the pits into. I personally think that makes for a lousy host. Love the idea of the brown sugared pears, and can hardly wait until next May for a rhubarb clafloutis. (And your new book!)

2:13 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate said...

Clafoutis has been on my radar for quite some time. I'm not sure if it has something to do with it's humble "grandmother-like" quality that I always forget about it and opt for a fancier dessert (and often one with chocolate). But I know, I need to try it. I think - I know - I will be pleasantly surprised.

2:30 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Susan B. said...

Sigh. Now I wish I had a ripe pear in my fruit basket....This sounds delicious. I'm so glad you got around to sharing the recipe with us :)

2:35 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger puppyfur said...

Okay, I have a pear tree here in France. Our Bull Terrier keeps stealing the low hung pears off the branches, but there are many at the top. Your pear clafoutis is perfect, except these oears, while huge, have not ripened enough yet to pick! I'll let you know if it works. Thank you for the recette, and your June is gorgeous.

2:44 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Grandmother who's family was from Alsace, used to make something similar to this, but with cherries -- she called it cherry roll. She also made cheese soufflé, gratin dauphinois(hers was called scalloped potatoes), and a beef stew. It wasn't until I went to France and started studying French food did I realize that her dishes were all "french grandmother dishes...." She was a fabulous cook, too.

2:51 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Rebecca Leone said...

"You do whatever you want." Love it.

3:24 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Tartlet Sweets said...

I too prefer the custardy sort of clafoutis. My favorite that I've ever made was with cherries and plums and was housed in a shortbread-type tart crust. I guess maybe it wasn't clafoutis in the strictest sense, but it was mighty delicious, and that's what I called it. Anyway, I will certainly have to try a version with pears. This looks wonderful!

3:25 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Raychel said...

I love clafoutis, Molly. LOVE. It is my go-to, and among my friends, it IS a fancy dessert! The name helps. Pear is the first clafoutis I ever made and even though it's been years, my family still talks about the time I made pear clafoutis. This one sounds divine, with the brown sugar. I will have to add it to my list of things to bake when fall arrives in Texas and makes a slightly permanent stay.
I am with you about it making an excellent breakfast dessert, or hey, just breakfast!

3:26 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Monica said...

I was just eating a super-ripe pear the other night and thinking about what I could bake with it. I've been wanting to make clafoutis for a long time. Maybe this is a sign. Thank you for the recipe!

3:35 PM, October 06, 2013  
OpenID tangerinedrawings.com said...

Have always been suspicious of clafoutis - maybe because a rubbery one is SO terrible. Perhaps you hae convinced me to try again...

Glad you have such clear memories of your father in Paris. You bring him alive a little for us. Happy computering.

3:48 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had one pear left from a bunch that a friend brought me from his garden -- perfect for this...it's baking in the oven now!!

3:54 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Gina said...

Yum! I love pear and fresh ginger in clafoutis:)

3:57 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Laurel said...

As soon as I pick up some pears at the market, this is going in the oven. You're right about the texture thing with clafoutis -- the last one I made was rather rubbery. But willing to give this delicious-looking dessert another try.

4:14 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger fiftyfinally said...

strange....I came home with four different varieties of pears from the farmers market this afternoon. And I don't even like pears. I thought i'd surprise my husband - the pear eater. But I believe this will be dessert tomorrow. Thanks

4:25 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Molly
Yet another beautiful story here on your blog, and I sure am looking forward to your next book.
About the clafouti ... like you, I prefer custardy and your rendition sounds delicious with the brown sugar. I also like that that it gets so well-mixed in a blender!

4:43 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Rebecca Alexis said...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm........... such yummy memories. xo

4:43 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Elena F said...

I just had drop everything and make this deliciousness the second I finished reading your post!
I used asian pears and dark brown sugar. Turned out just perfect.
What a perfect treat to end a rainy Sunday with!
Thank you for the recipe!

4:50 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous S.J. Sebellin-Ross said...

I love clafoutis. I make mine with cherries and (how very French and risque), I do not pit them first. It is delicious, and a little messy. Actually, a lot messy. But well, well worth it.

5:22 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Valerie said...

I've been having a love affair with pears for the last two weeks. Cut fresh, caramelized, caramelized in a tart. This sounds wonderful, I can't wait to try it.

5:41 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Louise @ Kitchen Fiddler said...

Thank you for putting the biggest smile on my face with your newest post, Molly! Your beautiful writing is always such a delight to read, just as delectable as these brown sugar pear clafoutis must be!

5:52 PM, October 06, 2013  
Blogger Ellen said...

This looks wonderful! I can't have dairy - do you think this would work with almond milk?

6:21 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Harriet said...

I have such vivid memories of Paris, and I love how your post just transports me straight back there as well. I've never made a Clafoutis, but this looks delicious. The flavours of brown sugar and pear seem so perfectly matched. I hope you're adjusting to a new computer (I recently got a new one, and it's equal parts exciting/scary/frustrating!).

6:25 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Kathleen said...

THRILLED by the simplicity of this. Sometimes I just need that. This is as easy as a smoothie. Woo-hoo!

6:33 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Leah said...

My first clafoutis was home made, out of the Mark Bittman "How to Cook Everything" book. It took two times as long to cook than suggested. I think this has to with the size of the dish you bake it in. If it's smaller and taller, it takes longer. Nevertheless, it was delicious. By now, I've pretty much got his version memorized, because the proportions are all equal. I find it to be an impressive, yet easy dessert. People just eat the whole thing. Looking forward to trying yours out -- love the idea of brown sugar, and pears are my favorite, although I've never put them in clafoutis before. Personally, I love it hot - with the caramelized top, it's like eating a delicious dessert pancake.

6:40 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Carly said...

This post brought a tear to my eye- especially the image of your dad waving exuberantly at you in his fly-fishing vest- it reminds me of my father. The recipe looks lovely as well, I will have to try it.

10:48 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Brown sugar does something special to all manner of baked goods. I used to make a ruhbarb style clafoutis of make the more cakey variety with ginger in it that was lovely too.

11:48 PM, October 06, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice that Marcella Hazan passed away last weekend? Many people referred to her as the Julia Child of Italian coking. Of all the cookbooks I own, her's are still my favorites. And I've noticed over the years that many Italian recipes seem to be versions from her original two cookbooks Classic Italian Cooking 1 and 2. She taught me how to make and cook pasta and all about Italian food before ingredients like quality olive oil and parmigiano-reggiano were easily available in grocery stores. Just when I thought I'd made everything fabulous from her Essentials cookbook, I made a zucchini gratin this week that knocked my socks off. Zucchini gratin with tomato and marjoram is a wonderful dish that seems to caramelize all the ingredients together effortlessly. I could eat it every day. Marcella, you will be missed but will live in our hearts forever.

2:55 AM, October 07, 2013  
Blogger Elizabeth Murray said...

I made my first clafoutis when I first read your book! I loved it and have made many more since. My kids just like throwing the word around to prove what sophisticated eaters they are. :)

6:07 AM, October 07, 2013  
Blogger Rocky Mountain Woman said...

oh my, how perfect! i am making this at the first possible opportunity...

7:29 AM, October 07, 2013  
Blogger katemakes said...

We love clafoutis at our house too. And a fantastic breakfast dish too!

9:33 AM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous molly said...

yes yes YES to pear clafoutis! i had a note to myself to make mention of the very same before this fall was out, because while i'll eat (with gusto) a clafouti in any guise, pear is my hands-down favorite. sometimes with the tiniest wink of almond extract. the brown sugar is new to me, though not for long.

10:56 AM, October 07, 2013  
Blogger Rev. Diane Wuesthoff, PassageWays said...

Doggone it - I just used all my beautiful ripe pears for a batch of pear-vanilla jam. Time for a visit to the market. Thanks for reminding me about the wonderful simplicity of clafoutis (and leftovers DO make a great breakfast!)

11:23 AM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been following your blog for a while and I would just like to say that I love you, Molly. This post made me very happy. Keep on being fabulous you!

11:31 AM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous LLEOKC said...

What do you think would happen if you used apples?

12:15 PM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous wanderingeducators said...

i LOVE clafouti. love it!! will try this delicious recipe... thank you!

12:19 PM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lovely story, the recipe sounds delicious.


1:58 PM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fabulous recipe (you're right -- it is best served cold) and I enjoyed hearing about you and your Dad having a wonderful time in Paris. I have so many memories of my Dad -- he loved to travel and discover new places -- something he passed on to his daughter :)

2:36 PM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous mainegirl said...

Lovely post about your dad, they are special. Will try the clafoutis as soon as the pears in my fruit bowl ripen.

2:55 PM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous Marios @ Betterwithlemon.com said...

Reading what you wrote about your dad makes me want to read your book again. Maybe I will, before the new one comes out. I've said it before and I'll say it again - you are one of the best writers out there.

Anyway, I've never made clafoutis but you've inspired me. Your recipe is next on my list.

4:43 PM, October 07, 2013  
Blogger Melanie Yarbrough said...

I am going to Paris for the first time ever August of next year. I can't wait to live my own stories and dishes like these.

I just picked some fresh pears last weekend, so I'm excited to use them in this!

5:19 PM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous Dana said...

Looks delish and I have pears ready to go but something is missing from this post. Hmmmm, could it be an updated picture of June? She is so darling!

10:20 PM, October 07, 2013  
Anonymous Kate said...

Yes! Thank you for reminding me of clafouti. I had my very first in Paris, too, when I was studying abroad, and it was made with cherries, and I was so bent on describing it to my parents that I just made them one, and it was a poor example at best. Making it with pears and brown sugar sounds perfect. I will try it.

12:14 PM, October 08, 2013  
Anonymous Netanya said...

As luck would have it, I have one ripe pear left. Thank you for the inspiration!

12:20 PM, October 08, 2013  
Anonymous Dr. CaSo said...

I absolutely LOVE clafoutis, especially with black cherries. But once, in the winter, I tried a clafoutis with... apples! The secret was to soften and caramelize the pieces of apples in a bit of sugar before using them in the clafoutis. It was divine :)

10:38 PM, October 08, 2013  
Anonymous Harriet said...

I too was an English language assistant in France - not somewhere quite as romantic as Paris though - but I always thought I'd much prefer to work more full-time hours for more full-time money... Could have eaten far more clafoutis (and cheese and red wine and duck and gateaux...)

1:26 AM, October 09, 2013  
Anonymous Victoria said...

I love when you tell stories about you and your father.

Remember when you posted that recipe for Roasted Pears? They are delicious, so if you say this is delicious, I'm buying into it.

This is what Nigella Lawson said about pears: "When they’re good, they’re wonderful, but I am beginning to think Ralph Waldo Emerson was being optimistic when he wrote, 'There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.' "

Cooking them can guarantee a not-disappointing pear dessert. And Molly, have you and Brandon had Belle de Brillet? A thimble full is excellent with any pear dessert.

1:57 AM, October 09, 2013  
Anonymous Linda said...

I like to eat clafoutis for breakfast. But having another serving afterward for dessert is a worthy idea!

9:13 PM, October 09, 2013  
Anonymous Jeff @ Cheese-burger.net said...

I'm loving this clafouti. I don't know why I haven't tried making them before. Now I just can't stop. This will be on the menu again tomorrow.

10:19 PM, October 09, 2013  
Blogger Elaine said...

I just learned that any claufoutis that does not contain cherries is called a flaugnarde, which is a very fun word to say! (I learned this distractedly-reading the excellent "Climates", not from the book itself, but from a sudden impulse to Google what typical Limousin cuisine is like...) Anyway, lovely-sounding recipe, can't wait to try, though I may present it as pear flaugnarde ;)

8:25 PM, October 10, 2013  
Blogger vannevar said...

I tried it with dark brown sugar and whole-wheat pastry flour. It is fantastic.

4:30 PM, October 11, 2013  
Blogger Chelle said...

I must have been channeling your recipe because I purchased two beautiful pears right before your blog came out. My friend who hates "dead fruit" loved it. that's saying something.

thanks for sharing.

8:23 AM, October 13, 2013  
Anonymous Irina said...

Thank you for a great recipe, Molly! I made it last night and it turned out beautifully, considering it was my first time making clafoutis. I don't normally like fridge-cold anything so I was reluctant to try clafoutis straight from the fridge but decided to follow your advice and ate a cold slice this morning. It was delicious!!! Even more tender and custardy than last night.

10:14 AM, October 15, 2013  
Blogger tina BossaNova said...

i like this story. i like everything about your "paris days". i especially like hearing about your dad. i have always loved my dad way more than i could ever put into words but ever since he died i am so happy whenever i can recollect a sweet memory about him. I can picture my own dad scooting his chair closer to the table when something really tasty is going on! i almost stopped reading your post after that just so i could savor the idea of me and my dad doing the same thing...thanks for that one.

11:25 AM, October 15, 2013  
Blogger kate said...

I am trying this with the dark brown sugar and a dash of calvados.

5:53 PM, October 16, 2013  
Blogger Allison said...

In the South, the poor south of Alabama out in the sticks where people cooked everything with fatback, a version of this was made. It's called "smush." It's really good left over for breakfast.

7:11 PM, October 16, 2013  
Blogger tj_batgirl said...

Eek new computer time! I'm in the same boat. I think tackling your posted recipe beats the thought of picking the 'correct' computer! So perhaps instead of deciding on a computer to commit to buying... making some clafloutis. Perhaps inspiration will hit as I nibble away at the end product!

Do all of your lovely posts come to us from a Mac or PC by the way?

6:18 PM, October 17, 2013  
Blogger Gina said...

I made this last weekend and it was brilliant - a caramelly-custardy deliciousness! I hadn't made a clafoutis before and couldn't see what to do with all off the ingredients in your recipe (maybe a missed step somewhere?) so I used these ingredients and instructions from another recipe I found online. Thank you for such a wonderfully recipe though, I'm looking forward to trying more of your recipes in the future :)

11:23 PM, October 18, 2013  
Anonymous JB said...

I do trust you on all food matters, but I couldn't bring myself to use all that sugar. Instead, I used 1/4 dark dark dark maple syrup, and it was fabulous. It's still plenty sweet, but perhaps even more acceptable as a breakfast dessert now :)

2:30 PM, October 28, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last time I was in Paris, which was in 2003, I ate at Le Repaire de Cartouche! A Parisian friend of a friend recommended it to me. It was lovely, but I didn't have such a nice dessert! I chose some kind of goat cheese covered with cajeta. I would have preferred the clafoutis.

5:12 PM, October 28, 2013  
Blogger Miriam Kattumuri said...

Hi Molly,

I love reading your blog, and am very happy that you’re doing what you do… teaching people to cook with healthy ingredients is so important in fostering a healthy life and more importantly a healthy future. Today I am contacting you because I too am trying to do my part in getting people to eat and live healthier. In 2008 I set on a quest to look for the ideal cooking pot, one that would give me all the nutrients from the food being cooked without adding its own ingredients or contaminants. It was a personal happening that led me to do this and all my research pointed out in one direction -- Pure Clay. After several years of research and travel I set out to make my line of pure clay cooking pots and their made in the USA. I had benefited so much from cooking in these pots that I had to share it with the world.

We choose to keep our raw material pure because the health benefits are overwhelming this way and greatly surpass that of cookware made from other kinds of manufactured clay like ceramic etc. I have come to read and love your blog greatly and would like you to consider taking part in our Affiliate Program so we can together promote this extremely healthy way of cooking to all your readers. You can find all the information about our cookware at miriamsearthencookware dot com or PureClayCookware dot com and sign up for the affiliate program by clicking on the affiliate tab on top.

And oh by the way we’re giving out pots to those who sign up early and the list is quickly filling up, I really hope you can be a part of it. We need your help in bringing back to life this beautiful, healthy, extremely eco-friendly method of cooking, it goes so well with your theme of helping people eat healthy, so do consider joining us.

Good luck with your blog.
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10:59 AM, November 01, 2013  
Blogger friscomom4 said...

This clafoutis came out amazing for a trial run!! I used a red "unpeeled" pear and almond milk. Baked for 55 minutes at 9,100 feet! I will definitely be making this for my dinner group friends next weekend....

3:16 PM, November 01, 2013  
Blogger Amélie said...

I bookmarked this as soon as I read this recipe. I really enjoyed your story, because I have been to that very restaurant when visiting my cousin in Paris (I believe this was the summer of 1999, and I had magret de canard along with a molten chocolate something for dessert, and in the 1990s, this wasn't all the rage yet). Anyway, I made the clafoutis, and it was fantastic. Truly the best I've ever made. From now on, this will be my go-to clafoutis recipe, and I'll change the fruit depending on what's in season. Thanks!

9:30 AM, November 04, 2013  
Anonymous Audrey said...

Made three of these over the weekend for various events. Found that I needed to increase the cooking time quite a bit, although I have an oven thermometer so I'm pretty sure it was accurate. Also, for the second two I briefly poached the pears in white wine, sugar, cinnamon, etc. This helped the pears be more the consistency of the clafoutis, so more coherent and easier to eat and cut. Such a lovely idea and recipe, all three were hits!

3:48 PM, November 05, 2013  
Anonymous Karen White said...

Oh my! I love clafoutis, and I love pears....and with brown sugar they sound divine. I will ne making this very soon.
I came across a recipe the other day, called Drommekage (Danish Dream Cake)- if you haven't tried it,I will find the link to the recipe for you.

7:08 AM, November 28, 2013  
Anonymous Karen White said...

Here's the link

Drommekage (Danish Dream Cake)

8:29 AM, November 28, 2013  
Blogger hadleyinpoitiers said...

I made this yesterday! It was a huge hit at the goûter we had for our Sunday afternoon. YUM!

5:29 AM, November 16, 2015  

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