Cherry season has arrived in the northern hemisphere and fortunately some of those gorgeous cherries have even made their way to our supermarkets here in Chiang Mai. Cherry trees require exposure to cold weather to germinate so commercial cherry growing is not possible here in the tropics. There are mountain cherries, a small Himalayan variety, that do grow wild in the mountains in the very north of Thailand and occasionally appear in local markets during the cold season. However they small and sour and nothing like the cherries from further north. So I decided an indulgence was duly justified and came home with a kilo of plump dark red Bing cherries. Delicious just as they are, but I also really had a hankering to make an old favorite French clafouti. A classic clafouti is traditionally always made with cherries when they are in season. However the recipe works beautifully with other seasonal fruits and berries as well. Clafouti is remarkably simple to make and very much in keeping with the idea of easy no fuss good wholesome food. The plump cherries are the star here and sure to please!
Fresh Cherry Clafouti serves 6 to 8
This recipe follows Julia Child’s no-nonsense classic Clafouti recipe with a few minor adaptations. I like really loading up the baking dish with cherries and adding a dash of almond extract to the batter that nicely compliments the flavor of the cherries. In fact the French do not pit the cherries, believing the pits add a slight almond flavor to the baked clafouti. I am not convinced and, with practicality in mind, much prefer the cherries pitted.
- 4 cups fresh dark red pitted cherries/ about 24 ounces
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk
- 2/3 cup sugar, divided
3 large organic eggs
- 2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- pinch of sea salt
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350f/180c
Lightly butter a baking dish that is about 1 ½ inches deep and set aside.
Pit most of the cherries and set aside, reserving some whole cherries on the stem for garnishing.
Note: Cherry/ olive pitters are available in cooking shops and online and well worth the small investment. If you don’t have one I have read using a sturdy plastic straw works, although I’ve not tried it.
Using a blender, combine the milk, 1/3 cup of sugar, the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, and flour and blend on medium speed until very smooth, about 1 minute.
Pour about a ¼ inch layer of batter into the buttered baking dish and set the remaining batter aside. Place the baking dish into the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the layer of batter is just set. Remove from the oven and place on a work surface.
Arrange the pitted cherries on their sides onto the layer of set batter, following the shape of the baking dish, working from the edge to the center until the cherries fill the baking dish.
Evenly sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar over the cherries. Then pour the remaining batter over the cherries until they are nearly covered, but leaving the tops exposed. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Keep an eye on the clafouti as you want it to be lightly browned and puffed up slightly, but not over baked. The clafouti is done when a thin skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack until the clafouti reaches room temperature.
Ideally clafouti should be just slightly warm from the oven. Dust with powdered sugar, slice, and serve along with a few whole reserved cherries.
You might also like Clafouti withFresh Figs ,Blueberries, and chevre ( see recipe here)
Voila…. Bon Appetite.!
Tarte Tatin, also known as Tarte des demoiselles Tatin, is one of France’s most legendary desserts. The idea for this novel upside down tart is attributed to the Tatin sisters, Stephanie and Caroline, who made the tarts in the family’s Tatin Hotel in Lamonte-Beuvron in the Solonge region of central France in the 1830’s. Apples are baked in a shallow pan along with butter and sugar topped with a pastry crust. Once the apples are caramelized the tart is inverted onto a serving plate revealing the deeply caramelized apples sitting atop a crisp sweet pastry crust. It’s all quite magical in its simplicity. The tarte Tatin is remarkably easy to prepare while it is its buttery caramelized apple filling that gives it an unassuming elegance and a notoriety that is all its own.
The American take on this idea is of course pineapple upside down cake. Absolutely delicious as well. For recipe (Click here).
Tarte Tatin serves 6 to 8
- sweet pastry, rolled out into a 12 inch round and chilled
- 1 ½ kilo/ 3 pounds firm tart apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 8 tablespoons/4oz unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Select a heavy bottomed oven proof pan or skillet and place it on the stove top over medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the pan and stir in about 1/3 cup sugar into the butter. Cook for a couple of minutes until the sugar is melted and bubbling up nicely in the butter. Begin placing apple quarters into the pan, rounded side down, around the perimeter of the pan. Then continue to fill in the center of the pan with apple quarters in a single layer.
Sprinkle another 1/3 cup sugar over the apples and drizzle with with half of the remaining melted butter.
As the apples cook you will notice some shrinkage. Push the apples together in the pan and slip more apple quarters in between them. The idea is to completely fill the bottom of the pan as tightly as possible with apples. Wedge in any remaining apple quarters wherever there is any space. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the apples and drizzle with the remaining melted butter.
You will notice the apples releasing their juices. Compress the apples every 10 minutes while they continue to cook. The idea is to slowly reduce the juices and incorporate them into the sugar and butter as it caramelizes. This can take 20 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the apples and check underneath them by lifting them up with a fork. The caramelized sugar under the apples will be a deeper color than the juices you will see bubbling up around the perimeter of the pan. You want a nice golden amber color in the bottom of the pan, so be mindful that the caramelized syrup does not darken too much which can have a bitter flavor.
Once the caramel has thickened and is bubbling up around the apples remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375f/190c
Roll out your pastry about 2 inches larger than the pan of cooked apples and chill until the apples have cooled down a bit more. Then place the pastry dough centered over the apples in the pan. Using a silicone spatula gently tuck the excess dough down the inside edge of the pan to encase the apples.
Using a skewer prick holes into the dough that will allow steam to escape while the tart is baking in the oven.
Place the pan into the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check the dough to see if it is nicely browned and there is caramel bubbling up around the edges of the pan. If not cook another 5 minutes or so as needed.
Remove the tart pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Run a sharp knife around the inside edge of the pan to be sure there are no sticking points.
After about 5 minutes place a large platter over the pan.
Using oven mitts grip the platter and the pan together and flip the pan over in one decisive movement.
The tart should drop onto the platter quite easily. If there are any apples left behind, gently remove them with a knife and place them back into their place on the top of the tart.
Traditionally Tarte Tatin is served warm. Simply slice using a wet knife at the table and serve with a pitcher of chilled cream, ice cream, or thick yogurt.
Here is a twist on Thailand’s very favorite sweet treat!
Borrowing from the traditional Thai pairing of sliced fresh mango eaten with sticky rice drizzled with coconut cream, I have instead made a tart with a coconut jasmine rice pastry cream scented with kaffir lime leaves that is topped with freshly picked sliced mango. This tart makes a tantalizingly colorful presentation that is sure to make a stellar tropical finale for a summer meal and well worth the little extra effort. For more information about Thailand’s mango and sticky rice (click here)
Of course choosing your mangoes is paramount. Ideally they should be freshly picked, plump, blemish free, and firm with an ever so slight give when very gently pressed. Their aroma should be flowery without a hint acidity. There are of course many varieties to choose from ranging from deep green, yellow, pastel yellow, orange, and various shades of red. Best to buy them not more than a day before you intend to use them and refrigerate them to slow down the ripening process. Peel, slice, and arrange the mango over the pastry cream just before serving for maximum flavor and freshness.
The rest of the preparations can be made in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to serve.
Fresh Mango Tart with Coconut Jasmine Rice Pastry Cream
Sweet Pastry (pate sablee) Tart Shell 10 or 11 inches, fully baked
As making the tart shell requires several steps including chilling the dough at several stages, as well as baking it, it is best to get this out of the way in advance. A fully baked tart shell cooled to room temperature and sealed n a large freezer bag will keep well in the refrigerator for several days.
Everyone who bakes has there own favorite tart pastry dough recipe so the choice is yours. Like many cooks I am always trying different recipes in a search of that perfect pastry dough that is easy to handle, sturdy when baked, and has at sweet crumbly sand like texture that classic tart shells should embody.
Likewise you can cook the rice and make the pastry cream in advance as well. Both will be combined and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the tart.
For the Coconut Jasmine Rice
- ½ cup Thai jasmine rice
- 2 cups coconut milk
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 kaffr lime leaves
Preheat the oven to 325f/170c
After briefly boiling the rice finishing off the rice in the oven avoids the inevitable scorching of the rice in the bottom of the pan when cooked on the stove top.
Place all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed oven proof sauce pan set over medium heat on the stove top. Stir occasionally as the liquid heats up to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes while stirring so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cover the pan with a lid and place it in the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once about half way through the baking time. Remove from the oven, remove the kaffir lime leaves and discard, and set the rice aside to cool.
For the Coconut Pastry Cream
- 2 cups coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large organic eggs
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Have ready a mixing bowl with a fine mesh strainer set over the bowl.
Place the coconut milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium low heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and drop in the kaffir lime leaves. Stir now and again while the coconut milk is heating.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk together the corn starch and sugar. Then add the eggs and whisk until smooth.
Once the coconut milk is just under a boil ladle about a third of the hot coconut milk slowly into the egg cornstarch mixture while whisking continuously until incorporated.
Then pour the egg mixture back into the hot coconut milk and whisk continuously. The mixture will thicken after about 2 minutes with a custard like consistency. Continue to heat while continuously whisking until the custard is just about to break into a simmer with just a few little bubbles appearing on the surface. You do not want the custard to boil as the eggs in the mixture will begin to curdle! Promptly remove the pan from the stove and pour the pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl. This will stop the cooking and remove any curdling that may have occurred. Discard the kaffir lime leaaves.
Let cool a few minutes and then stir in the butter, a tablespoon full at a time, while whisking until the pastry cream is very smooth.
Place the bowl of pastry cream on a cooling rack and press cling film directly onto the surface to avoid a skin forming on the surface as it cools.. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate if not using immediately.
When both the coconut rice and the pastry cream have cooled to room temperature add the rice to the pasty cream and fold it in until evenly distributed. Then cover with cling film and refrigerate for about an hour or more before assembling the tart.
- 2-4 mangoes depending on size
Peel the mangoes with a vegetable peeler and slice the mango into thin pieces lengthwise with the knife slicing parallel to the center stone/seed. Cover and refrigerate.
Assembling the Tart
Remove the fully baked tart shell from the refrigerator. Spoon the coconut rice pastry cream into the tart shell to about three quarters full and smooth the surface evenly. Cover the tart with cling film and refrigerate until well chilled.
Arranging the freshly sliced mango over of the pastry cream should be done as close to serving time as possible for maximum freshness!
Arrange the sliced mango over the surface of the pastry cream to your liking, trimming the mango slices as needed. Serve promptly, or cover the tart and refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.
While having coffee with my Welsh friend Paul the other day Welsh Cakes (pice ar y maen) wandered into our conversation. I confess I had never heard of Welsh cakes. Being the ever curious cook that I am, we ended up having a long chat about how his mother made her Welsh cakes for the family when they were kids back in Cardiff.
I have to say making these girdled cakes was so intriguing I was up at 6 am the following morning researching recipes and off into the kitchen making Welsh cakes!
The results were a cook’s epiphany. Easily mixed up and onto the griddle in no time. Welsh cakes are scones cooked on a griddle, if you will, but with a lighter billowy center while beautifully browned and slightly crisped on top and bottom. The upside is, unlike scones which are really best eaten right out of the oven, Welsh cakes have staying power. They were often packed into lunch boxes in the old days in Wales, tasting just as griddle fresh throughout the day as well as the following day with a short reheat.
These rustic Welsh gems must be tried! I just love them!
Welsh Cakes: makes 12
This is a basic recipe that makes traditional Welsh cakes that are perfect just as they are. However, feel free to try other dried fruits such as raisins or dried berries. You can also add a pinch or two of spices such as cinnamon or allspice as well as lemon or orange zest.
- 8 oz/225g all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ oz/100g unsalted butter, cold
- 1.8oz/50g fine granulated (caster) sugar + extra for sprinkling
- 1.8oz/50g currants
- 1 organic egg
- 3 tablespoons milk
- a cast iron griddle or cast iron skillet, or heavy bottomed non-stick skillet as an alternative.
- a 2 ½ inch/6 ½cm round biscuit or cookie cutter
Place the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and stir until well combined. Cut the well chilled butter into small cubes and add them to the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or, my preference, use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles a course meal, much as you would pastry flour for a pie crust.
Add the sugar and the currants to the flour mixture and stir in with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until well combined.
Beat together the egg and milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and, using the wooden spoon or spatula, work the liquid into the flour mixture until evenly distributed and the dough is starting to come together.
At this point, using your hands, gather the dough into a ball without overworking the dough.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and flatten the dough a bit. Dust the top of the dough with some flour and flour the rolling pin.
Begin rolling out the dough, giving the dough a quarter turn as you roll it out. If the dough is sticking to the work surface, lift it up and add a little more flour underneath it. Then roll the dough out to about a ¼ inch/ 2/3 cm thickness.
Cut out your cakes with the cutter and set them aside. Gather together the scraps of dough, reform it into ball, flatten it, and roll it out as before. Cut out the remaining cakes and set aside.
Note: I would recommend cooking one cake first as a test run, adjusting the heat of the griddle accordingly to avoid under or over cooking the remaining cakes.
Heat the griddle or skillet over medium low heat. When hot wipe the surface with a little butter and transfer some cakes to the griddle, arranging them so they are not touching one another. Cook for about 2 to 2 ½ minutes and the cakes have risen slightly. Lift up a cake to see if it is a nice golden brown. If so turn the cakes over and cook for another 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Feel the sides of the cakes which should feel slightly soft. If they need a little more cooking time just flip cakes over and cook another minute, but do not over cook!
Transfer the finished cakes to a cooling rack and dust with sugar if you like.
Serve warm just as they are or with preserves and clotted cream (or Greek yogurt)
Store leftovers in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. To reheat, just pop them in the toaster!