It's the way the word rolls off the tongue - c l a f o u t i s - that does it. It's like a loving endearment or reassuring pat on the back. So many times I've been seduced into taking a little slice of 'cherry clafoutis', hoping against hope that this will be the one to live up to all my expectations. So many times my optimism has been rewarded with a stodgy or desiccated disappointment, made palatable only by pouring on copious amounts of cream. Yet still, I search for the holy grail of the perfect 'clafoutis'.
The clue, I think, is in the usual description of 'clafoutis' as a "thick" batter pudding. Personally I prefer my pudding to be thick, or dense, with fruit rather than flour so each year when the cherry season comes round I try again to find the recipe that's right for me. The norm is to use cherries, unpitted so as to impart a little bitter almond-like flavour. I've had a mirabelle plum version that was excellent, though some would say if it's not made with cherries then it's a 'flaugnarde'. I'm perfectly happy to accept it as clafoutis. I just wish I'd asked for the recipe.
With at least another couple of weeks of cherry picking to go, I haven't given up on this summer's quest for the cherry clafoutis of my dreams. Meanwhile, here's a lighter batter pudding I came across last summer. It offers not only a different treatment for the batter, but uses raspberries. As I'm currently frantically harvesting berries from my allotment, I'm grateful to revisit it. Nothing beats eating the fruit straight from the canes, warmed by the summer sun, but they're peaking now and so are destined for the kitchen. If they are truly ripe, they travel badly. This is when you need a recipe where looks matter less than taste and there's only so much jam, cordial and puree I can make - and take.
CLAFOUTIS: from the verb CLAFIR
meaning: 'TO FILL"
250ml whipping cream
a pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod
about 25g of softened butter
about 250g raspberries
1 whole egg + 2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon potato flour
a little icing sugar
a little raspberry eau de vie (optional)
Pour the cream into a pan. Split the vanilla pod and run the back of a knife down the cut surfaces to extract the seeds. Add pods and seeds to the pan along with the salt and stir. Bring almost to the boil. Take off the heat, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/Gas 4.
Butter 4 shallow oven-proof dishes (or 1 large one). Divide the raspberries evenly between the dishes and place them in a roasting tin.
Beat together the egg, egg yolks, sugar and potato flour. Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and pour into the egg mixture, whisking gently. Carefully pour the batter over the raspberries. Sift the icing sugar over the surfaces.
Add hot water to the roasting tin to reach at least halfway up the sides of the dishes. Place carefully in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes (about 35 minutes for a large one) until slightly puffed-up but still a little wobbly. Turn off the oven and allow the puddings to settle for a few minutes. Remove and serve when just warm sprinkled with a little eau de vie (if using) and some whipped cream.