Bienvenue au Clafoutis

Clafoutis aux cerises

Hailed as a “great classic of family cuisine” by Raymond Blanc, the clafoutis is one of the easiest French desserts, and is also surprisingly unknown in the UK. I first discovered clafoutis on my year abroad in Lyon, served with a glass of Muscat on a pleasant, warm afternoon and immediately made up my mind to try out my own that weekend.

Clafoutis is a rustic French dessert made up of a light batter traditionally surrounding, the first sweet cherries of the season, left un-pitted so that the kernels could release a delicate almond flavour while it baked. The clafoutis is originally from the south-central region of Limousin but grew popular throughout France during the 19th Century, with some variations. You can make clafoutis with all fresh stone fruit, just adding a little more sugar to your batter if you use sharper fruit, but the principle remains the same.

For a traditional take, try making this with unstoned cherries as they not only hold together better in the mixing process, but also provide a source of entertainment (think spitting contests or the ‘Tinker, tailor’ rhyme). The clafoutis mix can be prepared a day in advance and mixed in with your fruit, ready for baking at your convenience.

So here is my favourite traditional recipe for Clafoutis aux cerises

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 35–45 minutes

Ingredients:

500g cherries (stones still in, washed)

3 large eggs

75g flour

75g sugar (depending on sweetness of cherries)

250ml milk (or 200ml milk and 50ml cream for a richer batter)

1 tsp vanilla essence

pinch of salt

Zest of ½ lemon

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • Butter a shallow baking dish, around 20cm in diameter.
  • In a bowl, mix together the flour and caster sugar, and then make a well in the centre.
  • Whisk in the eggs gradually, drawing in the flour from the outside and mixing well.
  • Add in the vanilla essence and the lemon zest and gradually pour in the milk (and cream), until you have a smooth batter.
  • Scatter your baking dish with cherries and cover well with the batter.
  • Bake for 35–45 minutes until golden. To test whether it is cooked, insert the blade of a knife and it should come out clean if it has been in long enough.

Best served warm, or if cold dust lightly with icing sugar.

If however like me, you’re stuck in soggy Blighty this summer and won’t be eating outside on a warm afternoon, I have an evening option for you, perfect for entertaining indoors when the weather won’t hold. The above clafoutis recipe can be turned into a slightly sexier and classy individual dessert, particularly if you have ramekins handy in your kitchen. By adding a chocolate hint to this French pudding, you have a great alternative to the classic melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding which is easy and quick to make.

Chocolate-Apricot Clafoutis

Preparation: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Will need 6 ramekins (or 4 large ramekins)

Ingredients:

1 large egg and 2 egg yolks

60g caster sugar

300ml double cream

25g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

6 fresh apricots (If fresh apricots are hard to find, replace with cherries (stones-out in this case), putting 5 or 6 halves in each ramekin)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Whisk the egg and yolks with the sugar for a few minutes until the mixture begins to whiten in appearance.
  • Mix in the cream and then flour and cocoa powder together and continue to mix until a smooth batter is formed.
  • Halve or quarter apricots and place about 2 in each ramekin.
  • Pour in the chocolate mixture into each ramekins and place in oven for 20 minutes.

How magnificently easy.

Do your hard work justice and serve hot with cream or vanilla ice-cream.

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