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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cherry Clafouti

It's cherry season here now, and incredibly, despite the crazy weather we've had in the past month, from frost and snow to 42 degree scorchers, the cherry harvest has managed to be a bumper one. My grandmother went on an excursion with her old Italian pensioner group to a cherry farm and came home with kilos of the things (I can't wait until I'm retired and can go on pensioner excursions!).
There are a few things you can do with a huge bowl of cherries, besides just eating them, but I was looking for something quick, and cherry clafouti is one of the quickest things. It's basically a sweet batter pudding studded with fruit. The point of using cherries is that the juices explode in your mouth as you bite into them, so you musn't stone the fruit. But you might want to inform your guests of that! I heard a sickening crunch from somebody who missed that announcement...
Not stoning the cherries means the whole thing takes about 5 minutes to make. I used a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Cookbook, but despite the fact I love Hugh and his shows, and find him a bit sexy, I didn't much like his clafouti recipe. The batter came out really stodgy and heavy, rather than the light, pancakey texture I'd wanted. His recipe uses 3 eggs, and mine were very big, so maybe I should have cut down on one? Maybe I shouldn't have blended it so thoroughly (although he even recommends the use of a food processor). Perhaps it just needs a little leavning, such as baking powder??
He's right though, in that it's best served lukewarm or cold, not straight out of the oven. Good if you need to make something to be served later.

NB - Belinda took these photos, as my camera is away being fixed after it exploded in the chocolate factory in Switzerland! Apparently it will take a month to get back, so I've since borrowed one from a friend. Thanks Belinda!
Read on for the recipe:

Cherry Clafouti
Slightly varied from "The River Cottage Cookbook", Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Butter or cooking spray for greasing
450g black or red cherries, washed but unstoned
75g caster sugar
125g plain flour
a pinch of salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
300ml milk
a splash of vanilla essence
flaked almonds
icing sugar for dusting *
*A 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder might work wonders on the batter.
*A few drops of almond essence could work well also

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 25cm-diameter round or tin baking dish, or a rectangular one of similar size. Remove the stalks from the cherries but do not stone them. Toss them with a third of the sugar and spread them in a single layer in the dish.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in the remaining sugar. Mix well, drawing in the flour from the sides, then beat in the milk and vanilla, a little at a time, until you have a smooth batter (you can use a food processor for this). Pour over the cherries, and add a handful of the flaked almonds over the top. Bake for about 35 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed up like a Yorkshire pudding.
Best eaten lukewarm, or cold. Dust with icing sugar just before serving plain or with cream.

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