As the weather starts to dip just a little this week, I am lunging for the opportunity to start cooking puddings again, and clinging onto it for dear life. Clafoutis is the perfect dish to ease back into oven-based cooking after the heatwave: it’s made for summer, showcasing cherries at the height of their season.
It’s a flan, really: custardy and wibbly, and with a hit of booze macerated into the fruit, a batter-based pud, filled with cherries. It comes, originally, from the Limousin area of France, and for a clafoutis to be truly traditional, the cherries should be unstoned. But may the culinary gods strike me down: I am not fond of an unstoned clafoutis. The risk of cracking a tooth is too great for me to enjoy it, no matter how authentic. The justification is that the cherry pits, like several other stone fruits, hold amygdalin, which is the active ingredient in almond extract, and adds a gentle almondy note to the cherries when cooked. But this is easily aped with half a teaspoon of actual almond extract, without the risk of a trip to the dentist.
Like all my favourite puds, this is a make-ahead dish: the cherries and the batter both benefit from being prepared in advance, the cherries having longer to soak up the kirsch and the batter becoming silkier through resting. Just pop the two together in a flan dish half-an-hour before serving, and pop in a hot oven. It’s best served warm, dusted with icing sugar, and with really thick cream or, if you’d like to offset the sweetness, crème fraîche.
Of course, you can use other fruits: apricots are particularly good here, raspberries too, plums and prunes, or even, when we dip into autumn, pears and apples, although they benefit from being part-roasted first – but if you, make sure you call it by its proper non-cherry name: flaugnarde.
Makes: Serves 4-6
Takes: 10 minutes, plus resting time
Bakes: 30-45 minutes
450g cherries, stoned
2 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons kirsch
1 egg yolk
60g plain flour
30g butter, melted
60g caster sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
Butter, for greasing.
Icing sugar, for dusting
1. First, macerate the cherries. Stone the cherries, and place in a bowl with the two tablespoons of caster sugar and the kirsch. Leave for at least an hour, and as long as three hours.
2. Now, make the batter. Place the plain flour, eggs, egg yolk, milk, caster sugar and almond extract in a food processor and whizz briefly until fully mixed. Pour in the melted butter and whizz briefly again. Leave to rest for up to three hours.
3. Heat the oven to 180°C. Butter an ovenproof dish, large enough to just hold the cherries in a single layer.
4. Drain the macerated cherries, and place the cherries in the bottom of the dish. Gently pour the batter onto the cherries and transfer to the oven carefully.
5. Bake for between 30 and 45 minutes: the exact time will depend on the size of your dish, but you want the batter to be puffed and golden, and to have set on top, but be a little wibbly underneath.
6. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm, with thick cream.