The only good thing about the asparagus season coming to an end, is that it signals the start of the British cherry season. I simply adore driving down my local country roads and seeing vibrant little stalls pop up with bunting telling me the beauties they are now selling no longer come from Spain.
Who doesn’t love cherries? And equally important: who doesn’t love chocolate?
Growing up in the 70’s, Black Forest Gateau made a regular appearance on our table. My brother hated alcohol (still does), so would dramatically wince at the merest trace of kirsch or cherry brandy in mum’s masterpiece. But for me that hint of liqueur always made the combo of cherries and chocolate even more seductive.
Mum’s Black Forest Gateau may have featured tinned cherries back then, but the flavour combination is a real crowd-pleaser to this day nonetheless. So no wonder everyone loves this black forest clafoutis too.
Clafoutis is a classic French dessert of cherries covered in a duvet of sweet batter that’s baked to set. It’s traditionally eaten lukewarm rather than straight from the oven. It works beautifully with blueberries and stone fruits such as peaches and apricots too.
Apparently the cherries should not be stoned, as the cherry stones are said to add a certain almond background to the dessert. But I already lost a tooth to a single olive pip on a pizza in the Provence a few years back. So I prefer to pit my cherries and then make up for the lack of almondiness by either using home made almond milk or adding a few drops of bitter almond extract to the batter. With a light scattering of almond flakes on top, you’ve got it covered (pun intended).
It’s worth investing in a little cherry pitting gadget, else the pitting job is messy and quite time consuming.
The real bonus in this recipe is that it uses real chocolate. Not cocoa powder, not even raw cacao. But the best of the best real Belgian chocolate.
I’m a huge fan of Callebaut chocolate nibs. And no, I am not being paid to say that. They simply have a fantastic range with different flavour profiles and different melting properties that are just perfect for all your chocolate needs. Sadly they mostly sell these nibs in huge catering packs, but their 1kg resealable pouches are accessible to the home cook. Find them online on Amazon and similar.
My personal favourite is their No. 811, a 54% nib that is classed as a milk chocolate. But it has a wonderful background bitterness that lends itself to darker chocolate recipes too. It melts beautifully and is my go-to chocolate for Belgian chocolate mousse and home made Nutella
Black Forest Clafoutis (serves 5-6 LC V )
This is lovely just lukewarm or at room temperature. It keeps well overnight in the fridge, so this is another option for your picnic list or advance prep for entertaining.
500-700 gr fresh cherries, washed and stoned
200 ml cherry brandy or kirsch (optional)
1 tbsp butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the dish
3 tbsp demerara sugar
2 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
100 ml whole milk or almond milk
50 ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1/2 tsp almond extract if not using almond milk
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp raw cacao or 1 tsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp flour, plain, spelt, brown or gluten-free
80 g dark chocolate, buttons or chopped
Optional for serving; caramelized orange zest, thick double cream or creme fraiche, Icing sugar
Soak the cherries in the cherry brandy or kirsch (if using) for up to 24 hrs.
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Butter a pie dish and add 1 1/2 tbsp of demerara sugar. Pick up the pie dish and coax the sugar around by shaking and rolling around the pie dish in your hands until lightly coated
Drain the macerated cherries and add the cherries to the pie dish in a single layer. It’s fine to pack them fairly tightly without crushing them. Reserve any excess cherries for garnish. slurp the drained off cherry brandy when no one is looking. Cooks privilege.
Melt 60 gr of the chocolate in a medium-low microwave or over a hot water bath until just melted. Be careful not to overheat as it will go grainy. Best to only let it go partially melted, remove and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool a little.
Whisk the eggs, caster sugar, vanilla and almond extract if using. Add the flour, milk, cream, salt and melted butter. Whisk again until smooth.
Add a third of the batter to a separate bowl and add the melted chocolate and cacao. Beat until smooth.
Pour the plain batter over the cherries. Then pour the chocolate batter over it in swirly fashion. It’s nice to have both batters showing if you can muster.
Bake for 20 mins. Then sprinkle over the remaining chocolate nibs and scatter with the flaked almonds. Pop the dish back into the oven and bake for further 15-20 mins or until just set. It’s OK if there’s still a slight wobble in the middle, as the clafoutis will carry on cooking once it’s out of the oven.
Remove the clafoutis from the oven and let it cool for at least 15 mins. It will deflate a bit, but that’s fine. Sprinkle over the remaining demerara sugar.
Serve in wedges with some icing sugar sifted over and a good dollop of thick cream or creme fraiche on top.
The orange zest is optional, but I had some left over from my baked honey cheesecake with caramelized oranges.