Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cooking at home: Carefree Clafoutis

Come summer time, you saw these succulent cherries calling and screaming for you as you walk by the fruit stalls in the market. Big ones, small ones, red ones, golden ones... well, we don't produce them locally and we have this all year round - in winter they were shipped from Southern Hemisphere places like Chile or Australia - but I still prefer the American ones for they are juicier and tasted better, and to me, cherry is always a summer fruit.

The combination of sweet and tart tastes, firm textures and enticing aroma made cherries so versatile that you could use that for any part of your meal - from aperitif to appetizer to main course to dessert. For example, cherry coulis was always my favorite condiment for roast pork, and what's better to serve ice cream with than some flaming cherry jubilee?  

Here is one cherry dish that's also easy to make and relatively fail safe - and it's called Clafoutis (pronounced as cla-foo-tee). It's a baked tart with the original roots from some rustic villages in central France (Limousin), and traditionally, it's always filled with black cherries - some even said it's supposed to leave the stones on for a almond-ly flavor. Of course, in the modern versions we used a wide variety of fillings such as pears, apples and all kind of berries, or we use pitted cherries. The sweet taste of clafoutis made it an obvious choice as a dessert, but it also worked for breakfast, especially if you happened to have any leftover after the dinner in the previous evening. It's comforting but never filled you up.

The recipe uses simple ingredients (flour, eggs and sugar) plus the fresh fruits of your choice. Takes about 10 minutes of prep time and less than an hour of bake time. And all you need is a mixing bowl, a whisk and a baking dish - a food processor would make it even simpler but that's not necessary. It doesn't even matter if you didn't make the batter very smooth - it's supposed to be a little rustic so no one could tell if there's a little lump somewhere. Easy peasy - that's why I called it carefree.

Recipe: Clafoutis (serves 4-6)

  • 1/2 pounds of red cherries, stem removed, pitted (alternatively you can add blueberries, strawberries or even apricots or pears)
  • 0.5 cup of flour
  • 0.5 cup caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar


1. Preheat oven to 180C, lightly butter baking pan. Set aside.

2. Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer (do not boil) and set aside.

3. Combine eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk by hand or by food processor until smooth. Gradually add in warm milk. Continue to whisk until thoroughly combined. The batter will be a little watery - even more watery than whipping cream - but that's how it's supposed to be, so don't worry!

4. Pour the batter into baking pan. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes until slightly set. Remove pan from oven - do not turn it off!

5. Put cherries into the batter in single layer. Put baking pan back into the oven and continue to bake for an additional 40-45 minutes. Surface should be brown and batter set.

6. Take the pan out of the oven. Let cool slightly, and run a knife along the sides of the pan to loosen up the clafoutis.

7. You can serve it immediately or let cool to lukewarm/room temperature. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar, cut into wedges or squares, and optionally put a scoop of ice cream on top (preferably homemade).

(The version I made for the pictures - I used less cherries than what I mentioned and put in blueberries as substitute. I was making two at the same time and only got three quarter pounds of cherries. Plus I threw in some butter in the batter just because I felt like it - I told ya, it's carefree so try out different things as you see fit!)

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