"This seemingly simple recipe baffled me for many years, as I endlessly ended up with a leaden duffer of a pud, so much so that I quite gave up on it." Jeremy Lee
Me too I have to say. Clafoutis is a French dessert, traditionally made with cherries, baked in a batter - a sweet kind of toad-in-the-hole really. Very simple to make. But - as Jeremy Lee's quote above says, it is sometimes pretty disappointing - certainly when I have made it in the past. And last night for our Mercer's Cooks With You meal, dessert was cherry clafoutis. This is it - a tiny bit stodgy perhaps? Maybe there should have been a few more cherries - and of course I took the photo, so it is not classily styled. The cherry sorbet was delicious though. 3 1/2 out of 5 perhaps.
Now if you do have a top class photographer and food stylist this is what clafoutis is supposed to look like. It's a picture from my Provence the Beautiful book. And of course, even though it looks gorgeous it maybe doesn't taste that wonderful. Who knows?
Felicity Cloake of course has a red hot go at making it work, with the main point of dissension in her sources being whether to stone the cherries or not.
Ours were stoned - the advantage of this being that you don't have to keep spitting out the pips, and also, I would have thought, the cherries stand more chance of collapsing and spreading their juices into the batter. The experts though, including Felicity, say that with the pips in the cherries they have more flavour, and indeed some say that you should actually include the kernel inside the stone in the batter. Just a few though. There's cyanide in there. And besides it's a real faff to get at them. I once did the same thing with some apricot jam I was making because the particular recipe I was following at the time decreed that I should. You need a hammer. Anyway if you are feeling lazy keep them in, though perhaps you should warn your guests - several recipes said this.
"This recipe does not require removing the cherry pits, so, obviously, be careful when eating the clafoutis – no broken teeth please – eat slices while sitting outside, spitting out cherry stones. If that doesn’t appeal, just take the stones out first." Nigella Eats Everything
You can, of course, use other fruit than cherries for a clafoutis. Cherries are traditional though and specifically the sour morello cherries, which you never seem to be able to buy fresh here, but which you can buy in a tin or a jar. And almost everyone recommends soaking them in kirsch.
Nigel Slater has several suggestions for alternatives:
"Swap the cherries for 275g of blueberries, blackberries or some cooked pears. Change a third of the flour for finely ground almonds. The result will be heavier and more grainy but with a more interesting flavour. Soak the fruit in kirsch before using. Use the blueberry version as a filling for a custard tart." Nigel Slater
He also says that you absolutely have to have a thickish layer of icing sugar on top. Which we did last night.
Jeremy Lee whose quote is my lead into this post, made a greengage version - I don't think we can get them here either - a tart kind of green plum - told the story of at last eating the perfect clafoutis in Transylvania in Romania - a version made with rhubarb. So he asked for the recipe:
"The recipe kindly offered was from Simona Secju, the cook who had made it. As with recipes close to the heart of the cook, I could not capture the magic of this lovely pudding. It is so often time and place that defines a recipe."
How very true, but it's nice to know that it happens to the professionals as well. However, he persevered, trying out recipes from here, there and everywhere, finally discovering it was right in front of his nose in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So he made their plum version with his greengages - Plum clafoutis. Well perhaps I should give it a try next time I have some kind of fruit glut although I do have a nasty feeling that I have tried that particular recipe. I do know that every time I have had a go I have been mildly disappointed. Why is it that the batter for Yorkshire Pudding and pancakes is absolutely delicious and one for a clafoutis is not? What am I doing wrong I wonder?
Here are three with recipes and pictures to try - one classic and two not - Epicurious - and I notice their readers only give it 3.8 out of 5; from Anna Jones comes Frozen cherry and smoked salt clafoutis, and Fig and thyme clafoutis from Ottolenghi, although he is not alone in using figs; plus a couple of beautiful pictures (no recipes) from my library - France a Culinary Journey and The Food of France. Elizabeth David does not mention clafoutis - nor does Jane Grigson. Maybe they also thought it not worth mentioning.
I reckon you need a lot of fruit to the amount of batter, and a liqueur would not go amiss. It also looks as if people have varying tastes as to how crunchy the outside of the batter should be. I'm not sure I shall be having a go any time soon though. But yes - it is very easy.