During the height of summer, with Vancouver under an Air Quality Warning due to surrounding Forest Fires, and experiencing temperatures upwards of 30 Degrees C for some reason, all I was thinking about was baking.
It had to do with these beauties that I saw at the Farmer's Market early in the season. For some reason, raw cherries and I have never been friends. Even well washed organic ones make my lips and mouth itch. It's not like I haven't tried, but I know when to stop. Cooked cherries are another story - bring them on. We get on like a house on fire.
A few weeks ago, a particularly clever friend of mine brought a delightful dessert to another friend's bridal shower: A Cherry Clafoutis. Delicious, of course. I have always wanted to make one and ever since then, the idea has been planted in my brain.
Several attempts were made, some successful, others not. By my third try, I had enlisted the help of my three-year-old nephew and I think we cracked it. I thought give him the simple job of removing the stems of the cherries, but once he saw me with the cherry pitter in hand, there was no way that he was not having a part of that action. He performed admirably and remarkably, we and my mother's kitchen, emerged unscathed.
It's wonderfully simple to make. In fact, a three-year-old can do it. The pitting of the cherries is the most time consuming element, but other than that, you are simply mixing up a custard with a consistency similar to pancake batter in the blender and pouring it over the fruit. And if you bake regularly, you'll have most ingredients on hand.
The cherry season started early this year and is finishing up now. As we move into the late summer, you can easily substitute plums. Just slice them in quarters and arrange them beautfully in the baking dish and follow all other steps in the same manner.
And of course, you must dust with powdered sugar. And then dust some more.
I've based my recipe on this one from Simply Recipes with a few amendments. I found that soaking the cherries in brandy, (surprise, surprise) gave a great added flavour to the fruit. With this addition, I reduced the amount of almond extract slightly. I also increased the temperature to 375 which I felt worked better for the custard. My special tip is to dust the greased baking dish with sugar instead of flour which gives a lovely browned crust.
about 2 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted
2 TBSP brandy
2 TBSP blanched slivered almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of milk (2% is fine)
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting
extra granulated sugar for preparing the baking dish
1. Grease an 8-10 inch ceramic pie dish, dust it with granulated sugar and pop it in the freezer while you prepare the fruit and custard.
2. Pit the cherries using a cherry pitter. Don't be a hero and try to do it without. Invest in this fabulous piece of equipment (which you can also use for olives).
3. Optional step - place the cherries in a bowl and pour over the brandy. Let soak for 1/2 hour at least, preferably more.
4. Make the custard by placing the sugars, flour, salt, milk and extracts in a blender and mixing thoroughly.
5. Remove the pie dish from the freezer and arrange the slivered almonds to cover the bottom of the dish evenly. (I originally ommitted this ingredient but in subsequent trials, found the almonds to be essential.)
6. Arrange the cherries and any juice in the dish on top of the almonds.
7. Pour the custard mixture over the cherries and place in preheated oven.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the centre is just ever so slightly wobbly and the top is golden.
9. Allow to cool completely and then prior to serving, dust with powdered sugar.
10. If you can't finish it for dessert, eat the rest for breakfast.