Clafoutis: a baked cherry pudding full of of French rustic charm

Black cherries in a sweetened batter make a delicious and comforting treat

No cherries? Soft fruits such as figs, blueberries and blackberries can be substituted. Photograph: Harry Weir

No cherries? Soft fruits such as figs, blueberries and blackberries can be substituted. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

I first tasted really fresh ripe cherries while on a camping holiday in France during a 1970s truckers’ strike. Prior to that I had only tasted the glacé variety bobbing around a can of fruit cocktail.

We arrived at the port of Le Havre, travel weary and more than ready to catch our ferry home. I can only imagine my mother’s horror at the jaw-dropping sight of a stationary convoy of truck drivers blockading our route under a setting sun. I remember being handed a paper bag bursting with shiny red cherries from an adjacent market stall ... my dinner. Each cherry was a heavenly mouthful of succulently sweet flesh; perhaps the delay was not so awful after all, I thought.

Native to Asia, we are lucky cherries can grow in Ireland. If you are fortunate enough to have a cherry tree in your garden, clafoutis is a wonderful summer dessert. It is a baked French pudding, traditionally containing black cherries in a sweetened batter; however my two French nieces say they rarely come across it. For them it is old school, but with lots of rustic charm.

I love these simple desserts that require only a bowl and a whisk. Resembling toad in the hole and Yorkshire pudding, it is a delicious and comforting treat.

Whether fresh, ripe cherries are picked or bought, a particularly useful gadget is a cherry stoner. When cherries are out of season or packaged less than ripe in the supermarkets, picking up a tin of cherries for this recipe makes a lot of sense. Only buy tins that say the cherries have been “pitted”. You can also buy frozen cherries.

Clafoutis is perfectly baked when it is puffy, has a slight brown tinge around the edges and no longer jiggles in the centre. Use a large serving spoon to scoop it straight into bowls at the table. When I buy canned cherries in syrup, I reserve the syrup and reduce it down for a luscious sauce to serve with the dessert. It makes a lighter option than always serving it with ice cream. Add a dash of rum to the sauce for a dinner party finale. 

Baked cherry clafoutis

Ingredients
Serves 4
10g butter (for greasing)
100g caster sugar
20g plain flour
75g ground almonds
pinch of salt
3 eggs
½ tsp almond essence (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
100ml milk
100ml cream
250g ripe cherries, stoned (or pitted cherries in syrup)
1 tsp icing sugar, sifted

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a medium ovenproof dish with butter. 

2. In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, flour, ground almonds and salt. 

3. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, almond essence (or vanilla extract) milk and cream.

4. Gradually whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and continue whisking vigorously to a loose batter.

5. If using fresh cherries, spread the cherries over the base of the buttered dish (if using tinned cherries, drain the cherries and reduce the remaining syrup in a small saucepan over a high heat for a delicious sauce to accompany the clafoutis).

6. Pour the custard slowly over the cherries in the dish. 

7. Bake in the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until nicely puffed up around the edges but still slightly risen in the centre and no longer wobbly (which means the custard is set). The top should be golden in colour.

8. Leave to cool down for five minutes before serving as the fruit will be piping hot. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.

Variation
Other soft garden fruits such as figs, blueberries and blackberries can be substituted for cherries. Raspberries and plums give a delicious tartness to contrast with the sweetened batter. Why not mix a few together?

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