Colors of Summer – Clafoutis aux Cerises
How do we know that summer is here? Well, for most of us it’s the change in weather. Climate gets considerably warmer and possibly wetter. For me, a telltale sign of summer is when stone fruits become readily and widely available! The seasonal apricots, nectarines and peaches perfume the aisles of the fresh fruit section, and join the more regularly seen plums and prunes. The choices available and the parade of colours simply make shopping so much more enjoyable and uplifting. Time to make a fresh batch of apricot jam or Peach Melba! For me, one of the highlights of summer fruits is cherries, alas the season is usually quite short. They don’t exude the delightful aromas as the others, but a good Bing or Rainier is packed with so much flavour that makes them so gratifying to munch on. As much as cherries are good eaten as they are, they make an excellent choice for desserts which I’d been looking forward to whipping up, one of which is of course a signature cherry dish, Clafoutis aux Cerises.
Clafoutis aux Cerises is a classic French dessert from the region of Limousin well-known for their dark cherries. It is a simple dish to prepare, with just a few quick steps, requiring a mere handful of ingredients which are commonly available in any pantry or home kitchen. Once baked, it develops a flan-like consistency, resembling a very thick and rich custard. For me, I love to bake it the evening before and leave it at room temperature overnight for flavours to develop and mature and eat it as breakfast! I know its meant to be a dessert, but when you come to think of it, what a way to start a day!
Clafoutis aux Cerises (for one large 25cm baking or pie dish, or three 10cm baking dishes)
200g cream (single or double depending on the consistency desired)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100g caster sugar
100g plain all purpose flour
4 medium-sized eggs
1 tbsp kirschwasser or any good liqueur (optional)
zest from one lemon (optional)
50g salted butter
icing sugar for dusting
brown sugar and more butter to grease and coat the baking dish
Pre-heat oven to 180°C
Butter the baking dish and coat generously with a layer of brown sugar.
Melt butter over bain marie. If unsalted butter is used, add a small pinch of salt at this point.
Remove the stalks from the cherries and rinse them thoroughly. I leave the cherries unpitted but the pits can be if desired.
In a mixing bowl, whisk milk, cream, vanilla extract, eggs, caster sugar, the melted butter until well combined.
Finally add in the plain flour and mix until just incorporated.
Pour the batter in the dish until it is three-quarters full, and then place the cherries over the top evenly.
Place the dish on a baking tray which is lined with aluminium foil, and bake for approximately 40 min until the batter is well set and has developed a lovely golden brown. If smaller baking dishes are used, the baking time is reduced to 25-30 min.
Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm, either immediately or left overnight and reheated the next day.
A wide variety of liqueurs can be used. I use Kirschwasser because it is a cherry liqueur and marries the flavours from the dessert very well. I wrote a tablespoon in the recipe, but a generous splosh would do just fine! For more punch, a citrusy liqueur like Grand Marnier or Cointreau can also be used! Lemon zest can also be added into the batter for that extra zing!
Some recipes ask for the cherries to be arranged and lined in the dish before pouring in the batter. I prefer to do it the other way. This keeps the cherries afloat with a “peakaboo” polka dotted effect which I kinda like.
This recipe produces a Clafoutis which has a typical flan-like texture, which is more dense and compact. If a lighter, more custardy version is desired, cut back on the flour and use single or light cream. It should work well. Be sure to have a baking tray over the baking dish. The clafoutis will rise like a souffle during baking, pushing some of the juices out of the dish and hence the use of the baking tray. I love to sit by the oven watching the clafoutis rise during baking and listen to the hisses and sizzles produced by the overwhelming juices.
Cross-sectional view showing the custard well-set. Leaving the cherries unpitted allows the clafoutis to maintain a pristine custardy yellow. Using whole cherries with pits is also said to be able to imbue the clafoutis with a slight almond-like flavour, which unfortunately I could not discern. On a more pragmatic note, the juices are kept more or less intact and the cherries lose less water, with the juices leaching out to for a rather soggy clafoutis. Yuck!
But I prefer to eat it straight from the dish! And definitely leave it overnight for the flavours to develop and mature, and so much more robust and apparent! A simple reheating brings the piece back to life!
Wishing you a really colorful summer ahead!