I was going to give you a super-easy and healthy-ish, ice cream recipe, inspired by my recent trip to Spain. Miss R even had a crackin’ tune all planned out, a real belter. But the sloppy slap of rain against the conservatory roof put me in a baking mood. Not a cake baking mood but a full-on comfort extravaganza, involving batter.
Batter-based clafoutis is, according to Nigel Slater, the only hot pudding acceptable in summer. I quite agree. Menus featuring sticky toffee puddings and hot chocolate fondants seem somewhat disagreeable when the mercury is nudging 30C. Like wearing a fur coat on the beach. I would imagine.
To quell my baking fixation, as luck would have it two packs of English cherries were hiding in the fridge, their plastic carapaces not yet be breached by snack-seeking fingers. So I thought – lightbulb moment – clafoutis. But clafoutis with a – turning up the dimmer switch – dark side.
I am not normally a fan of clafoutis. I find they can be a wee bit bland and a tad eggy for my liking. But I realise that I am an exception because this delicate custardy pouf of a pudding, from the Limousin region in France, is exceedingly popular. Partly this is to do with ease: after stoning the cherries it scarcely takes more than five minutes to put together and whack in a moderate oven. No tricksy separating of eggs or out-there ingredients either.
But I also know it is to do with blanketing a short season fruit in a deep duvet of comforting, billowing batter. Who in their right mind doesn’t like things in batter? Just a whisper of flour and sugar, some fruit, eggs and milk and you have a magnificent pudding that needs only a serving spoon and perhaps some cream.
So, I thought I would set about making a clafoutis that suited me. Hopefully you will like it too.
Sweet cherries are traditional in clafoutis (yes, the ‘s’ is supposed to be there), and I’ve used deep garnet beauties from Herefordshire in England, but I will try this again with slightly sharper blackcurrants. And then later with some blackberries, whenever these start appearing in the nearby woods. Plums, pears, raspberries, nectarines and apricots would work well too. Interestingly, using fruit other than cherries makes this a flaugnarde. But I don’t even know how to say that convincingly so I will just call my riffs clafoutis, and pedantry be damned.
Another traditional feature of clafoutis is leaving in the cherry stones. This
odd interesting practice is said to impart a subtle almond flavour, complementing the cherries. Tradition is fine but I don’t fancy any more attention from the medical profession than I have already – or a trip to the dentist – so I remove them. And this is easily done if you have a cherry stoner/olive stoner. I’ve got a vintage one (ie one my mother used to use) but Lakeland have one that looks similar. But I didn’t want to forgo the almond note so I have used some freshly milled almonds in the batter, and you have the option of using almond milk rather than dairy (I didn’t have any but I think it would work just fine). You could even add a few drops of almond extract if you like.
Cherries last but a few short weeks here in Blighty so I am getting my fill while prices are almost reasonable. I have yet to see them in farmers’ markets up here in Scotland but I bet they are pride of place in the markets of southern England. Where today I hear it’s heading towards a spaghetti straps 30C. Regular readers will know what I am wearing today. And it ain’t spaghetti straps.
Nutrition Bit: Sweet cherries are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, anthocyanins and quercetin, which may work together synergistically to fight cancer. Plus, preliminary studies suggest the anthocyanin cyanidin may prevent genetic mutations that can lead to cancer and keep cancer cells from growing out of control. While tart cherries contain some anthocyanins, sweet cherries pack nearly three times as many (two-thirds are found in the skins). The riper the better: as cherries darken, they produce more antioxidants (from eatingwell.com). Along with other deeply coloured blue and red fruits, cherries are a top anti-ageing food, as well as being a potent cholesterol fighter. Ten cherries make a portion, and deliver a mere 90 delicious calories.