It’s Bastille Day tomorrow and the 100th Tour is ascending the iconic Mont Ventoux – the scene of yet another of my cycling club trips – which is famous for its cherries. I suspect those lycra-clad lovelies will be climbing a tad quicker than I did. The scenes from the roadside, thickly packed with cheering fans, will be wonderfully motivating for the riders as they grind their way up to the lunar landscape at the top.
Sadly the cherry blossom season is over, with cherries at their most plentiful in June. However, it seems only right and proper that I’ve prepared a French Classic using those succulent, juicy red cherries. This is another recipe where every French woman declares that her grandmother’s recipe is simply the best. Mine’s a tweaked version of that in Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Koo.
Traditionally this dessert is made with whole cherries but I prefer to remove the stones. Safer for everyone’s teeth!
Ingredients (serves six)
- 350g (approx 12oz) sweet cherries, washed, stems removed and pitted
- 150g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 1 tbsp freshly finely grated lemon zest
- 4 medium organic eggs, approx 40g (1½oz) in weight without the shell
- 2 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
- 50g (¾ cup) freshly ground almonds
- 100g (1 cup) crème fraîche
- 100ml (⅓ cup + 2 tbsp) milk, buttermilk or cream
- ¼ tsp of fine sea salt
- Icing (powdered) sugar for dusting
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan).
2. Butter the base and sides of a 20cm (8″) square baking dish or similar.
3. Place the cherries into the bottom of the dish. A lot of recipes call for the fruit to be added after the batter, but I prefer to keep the contents a surprise and not have them poking through the batter where they might catch and char. In addition, cherries often bleed their juices into the batter which I personally think makes the dish look less attractive.
4. Whisk the eggs, salt, lemon zest and sugar until light and fluffy.
5. Sift in the flour and gently fold into the egg mixture with the ground almonds.
6. Then gently stir in the milk and crème fraîche.
7. Pour the batter over the cherries, place the baking dish into a bain marie (water bath) – I find this helps the dish cook more evenly – put it in the centre of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and set. The batter will rise up and then sink back down again.
8. Allow to cool for 15 minutes or so – it tastes better warm – before dusting with icing (powdered) sugar and serving with a big dollop of crème fraîche!
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.
2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the clafoutis in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than it should take to cook and then check regularly.
3. You can make clafoutis using pretty much any soft fruit or berries. I’ve made them with raspberries, pears, plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines. I tend to change around the flavourings to suit the fruit. For example if I use plums, I’ll infuse the milk with cinnamon and star anise and omit the lemon zest. It’s yet another recipe where you can let your imagination take over.
4. I’ve also make clafoutis with ground pistachios – they turn the batter a delicate jade green – and cherries but have found that when using hazelnuts or walnuts, the remaining bits of skin adhering to the nuts gives the batter an unfortunate muddy colour.
5. The dish can also be turned into a savoury one. Omit the sugar, fruit and lemon zest, substituting approx 100g (3½oz) cubes of feta cheese and a similar amount of cherry tomatoes and half that amount of pitted black olives. Or add 250g (9oz) of chopped roasted vegetables to the batter. A handful of complimentary chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, dill or a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme wouldn’t go amiss.