Monday, June 21, 2010

Che-eh-rrry, Cherry Baby – Cherry Clafoutis and its cousin, Flaugnarde

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Life’s a bowl of cherries… I’ve never really understood that expression. Does it mean life is sweet and juicy but that at some stage you will break your teeth if you forget about the stones in the middle? Let’s concentrate on the sweet and juicy aspect. At the moment, bowls of cherries are in abundance. 2010 is an outstanding year for this gorgeous gorge-able fruit, particularly in La Belle France.
Cherry Clafoutis - just add whipped cream for a taste of heaven!
Last week, I encountered an impressive cherry tree – planted in 1969 or thereabouts, or so the owner told me. He was a total stranger by the way. I just happened to admire his garden as I sauntered past. This tree was about 3 stories high and lush in leaf. Its branches were so laden with ruby fruit that they trailed the ground like weary arms. The owner said that he and his family had picked and picked the glossy beauties but hadn’t made a dent in the bountiful harvest. He offered me a taste and when I sighed with pleasure over a mouthful of the sweet juicy berries, he said “Take some with you.” I declined politely. I had neither bag, nor basket and though I tugged hopefully at my tee-shirt it failed to yield enough surplus fabric to make a temporary pouch. “You don’t need a bag”, the man said. Snap! Snap! Snap! He broke off three branches. That’s how I came to have the most unusual -and weighty - bouquet of cherry boughs. So much better than roses! I ate most of them single-handed.
Life's a bowl of cherries!
That was last week. Back to reality. Cherries here in Ireland can reach an outrageous number of euro per kilo. I’ve discovered Cherry Clafoutis to be a wonderful way of stretching a handful of beautiful berries. Clafoutis takes about 5 minutes to put together, then you can sit back and relax while it is in the oven. The batter shrinks back slightly from the fruit as it cooks, leaving little pockets of concentrated sweetness.
There are two schools of thought on whether to leave the stones in or not:  
Leave them in? - It is traditional to leave the cherry stones in. Not only is it less arduous for the cook, but the stones impart a subtle almond flavour to the dish. Be sure to warn anyone partaking of this delight about the presence of the stones as expensive dental work may outweigh any pleasure gained from eating the dish.
Take them out? - Significantly less danger to teeth, and I find that the cherry juice leaking into the batter from the de-stoned cherries more than makes up for the flavour that might be added by leaving them au naturel.

For 4 servings you will need...
50g ground almonds
25g self-raising flour
50g runny honey
3 eggs
150mls fresh whole milk
300g ripe fresh cherries, stalks removed, stones left in or out as you prefer.

Preheat the oven to 170°C
1          Measure the ground almonds and flour into a mixing bowl. Add in the honey and the eggs and whisk to a smooth batter. Slowly whisk in the milk to give a consistency similar to single cream.
2          Divide the batter evenly between 4 shallow ramekin dishes (lightly buttered)
3          Divide the cherries evenly between the 4 dishes, dotting them around the batter.
4          Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 30 minutes or until risen and golden.
5          Allow to cool slightly before dusting with icing sugar and serving with a scoop of vanilla icecream or a swirl of whipped cream.
6          Issue a warning about the cherry stones if necessary!
Note: Clafoutis sinks slightly as it cools – that’s just its nature
Ingredients to watch out for...
Huile Vierge d’Amandons de Pruneaux is an oil made from the almond-like kernel in the centre of plum stones. The flavour is almond with a hint of cherry and is a taste-sensation drizzled over pancakes. I flavour the above batter with a tablespoon of this oil when making a flaugnarde – which is simply a clafoutis substituting any other berry or fruit for the cherries. Otherwise, a drop of almond essence makes a decent understudy.

More 'Almond' than the almonds themselves!

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