Pondering what to do with over 60 pounds of cherries isn’t an everyday conundrum. Sadly, it’s a question I will never need to address from my very urban flat, in very urban East London, with no garden or cherry tree in sight. It was, however, a topic for discussion at dinner over the weekend.
The boy and I were supping with friends, who are lucky enough to have a bountiful cherry tree in their front garden; I eagerly consumed a generous portion after pudding (a delightful apricot and almond tart), and was delighted to leave with a further serving for us to enjoy at home.
Cherries are probably my favourite summer fruit. On occasion, I’ve successfully made myself slightly sick, greedily eating more than a couple of punnets’ worth. Keen to make the orchard gift last as long as possible, I considered soaking some in brandy, or even freezing half; and then I opened the paper, flicked through the magazine and Nigel Slater’s clafoutis was there, begging to be made. So far so perfect.
Aware that I hadn’t yet contributed to Made by Many’s weekly cake club, I began de-stoning cherries. Like a small child, I was compelled to eat one for every two I managed to de-stone. It was slow work.
Julia Child described Clafouti as peasant pudding. Its charm is its ease of creation. It’s a pancake batter—with or without almonds or a touch of alcohol—poured over fresh summer fruit and slowly cooked for up to an hour. Of course, it’s best served warm, rather than a day later, slightly soft from the intense London heat. Oh well.
I prefer to use almonds in place of flour whenever I can. But too much almond and your pudding can become very dense. I replaced half the required flour with some crushed flaked almonds. Slater’s recipe recommends adding melted butter at the last stage; Child does not. And from a quick scour of the internet, I gleaned that Raymond Blanc’s approach is far more complex.
I kept it simple—all the ingredients, bar the butter, mixed together for about a minute. The mixture became a striking custard yellow and smelt delicious. And it was so easy to make—a kind of vanilla-and-almond flavoured pancake batter.
Slater recommends starting with a few spoons full of sugar to form a crunchy base, followed by the cherries and the batter poured gently over the fruit. I’m a keen almond-lover, so I scattered a generous handful of flaked almonds over the top, before carefully placing the pan in the oven for about 45 minutes on a moderate heat. I’d never made anything like this before. But it looked quite appealing when I removed it from the oven. The cherries had darkened, the batter had turned golden and the almonds were lighted toasted. It took all of my willpower not to tuck straight in then and there; I resisted, and trundled off to work, tart in hand, to feed The Many.
Recipe (adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe)
400g of cherries
70g of butter, melted
80g of caster sugar
3 medium free-range, or organic eggs
45g ground almonds
1-2 tsp good vanilla extract
a generous handful of flaked almonds
Set the oven to 160C. It’s laborious, but it’s worth you stoning your cherries. Lightly butter a 24cm diameter baking dish, then dust with a couple of tbsp of sugar.
Tip in the cherries. Mix the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl, add the flour, the milk and the vanilla extract. Mix for about a minute, and then add the melted butter. Stir until the butter is fully incorporated.
Pour the batter over the cherries, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and bake for 45 minutes, until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and (ideally) serve warm with thick cream.