The bounty of summertime inspires me to make something sweet out of juicy cherries. Of course, there’s always a good cherry pie to be made. But just as simple, clafoutis, a rustic French baked fruit recipe, is delightful when you’ve got bowlfuls of cherries plus guests and/or family to please after a weekend dinner. Cherry Clafoutis. It sounds fancy, but do not be in the least bit concerned if you can’t make a dessert. This is so easy. In a way, it’s sort of like a ‘pancake + pie’ in a ramekin (if that makes any sense). The batter is somewhat custard-like, not exacting, just like making pancakes. Easy to adjust as you please.
All you need are juicy cherries and a few simple ingredients.
Now, to make clafoutis the traditional way, the recipe calls for heavy cream, flour, cornstarch, vanilla bean, eggs, butter and sugar. I chose a healthier version by food writer, stylist and photographer Béatrice Peltre. Her French flair and use of gluten-free flours (like millet and almond meal) in place of all-purpose flour, and coconut milk instead of heavy cream, makes this clafoutis recipe a welcome addition in my kitchen repertoire. Coconut oil or vegan butter can be used in place of butter, and coconut sugar instead of refined, however eggs are needed to bind this recipe. I’ve been looking for a vegan alternative to make clafoutis, but for now, eggs hold this together.
I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees. – Pablo Neruda
The summer night was balmy. I wore my favorite cherry printed sundress and an apron around my waist. His hands lifted up the hem, wrapping around my hips, pulling me close into an embrace. We kiss, lean against the counter, knocking over a few remaining cherries from a bowl… they spill out. My fingers are stained with cherry juice from pitting. In a caress I cradle his face with the cup of my two hands.
“Let me check the clafoutis,” I whisper upon his lips, as the scent of almond and vanilla bean fills the kitchen. He looked into the lit oven window and saw the baked desserts.
Ah, they were lovely. Plump cherries still wearing their stems, oozing ruby red juice, bubbling up in their custard. I put on my oven mitts and took the tray of ramekins out from the oven.
(adapted recipe from Béatrice Peltre’s cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life)
You will need one (1) 12-inch mold or six 8oz ramekins
- Unsalted butter or coconut oil (or Earth Balance vegan butter) for the mold or ramekins
- 1/2 cup (100g; 3 1/2 oz) raw or coconut sugar, plus more to sprinkle into the molds
- 2 cups coconut milk
- finely grated zest of 1 small organic lime
- 1 vanilla bean, split open and scraped out
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup (40g; 1 3/4 oz) millet flour
- 1/4 cup (30g; 1 oz) almond meal
- 1/4 cup (30g; 1 oz) cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil (or Earth Balance vegan butter)
- 1 pound 5 1/4 oz (600g) ripe cherries (such as Rainier or Bing)
- confectioners’ sugar, to dust (optional)
- ice cream (coconut or vanilla), for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
Butter a 12-inch mold, or six 8 ounce ramekins, and sprinkle with sugar; tap the excess out.
In a small pot, gently heat the coconut milk with the lime zest and vanilla bean on a low flame. Once warm, turn off the heat and cover. Allow to infuse for about 15 minutes. Strain and set aside.
In a bowl, combine coconut sugar, millet flour, almond meal and cornstarch. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the infused coconut milk and melted coconut oil and/or butter. Arrange the pitted cherries in the mold or ramekins and pour the batter on top. After this step, arrange whole cherries— with stems and pits— on top.
The French like to add whole cherries with stems and pits. The flavor releases from the pits, enhancing the custard with a deeper taste of cherry. Arrange a few whole cherries on top of the pitted cherry flesh after pouring in the batter. It’s sensual to pull the whole cherries, hot and juicy, out of the baked custard and eat them.
Place the clafoutis in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes — 25-30 minutes if you are using ramekins— until the custard is set and golden in color. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature, however, I find serving these just warm from the oven and topping them with coconut (or classic vanilla) ice cream (I’ve used vegan coconut ice cream quite successfully) is sublime pleasure. Extra lime zest is pretty and adds dimension too. You can dust them with confectioners’ sugar and serve them without ice cream, but try it hot with melting ice cream on top for your cherry delight.