Cherry clafoutis


Full cherry tart clafoutis with a slice on green plate
Wedge of French cherry flan tart known as clafoutis surrounded by cherries flowers dusted with icing sugar

HAPPY SUNDAY! I am sitting at my kitchen table next to a bowl of rich tomatoey, cheesey spaghetti (all my Southern hemisphere food blogging peeps are in wintery comfort eating mode and the food envy was all too real). I am also halfway through defrosting my flat mates freezer. I love my wee Edinburgh flat but it is not without its flaws. There is the washing machine that no longer works, the posters that peel off the walls at 2 am, the mysterious creaks, the glasses that routinely and mysteriously are flung off the kitchen table (we have a ghost), the nail sticking out of my floorboards that shreds my heel when I forget about it. And then there are the tiny fridges. We have two tiny fridges in this place, wee little useless bastards. One fridge for two people. I share mine with a French recluse whose diet seems to consist of pasta and mayonnaise so just about everything in there belongs to me (wine, 12 varieties of cheese and an eclectic sampling of condiments). Our two other flatmates share the other one which I am currently cleaning.

The freezer space in these wee fridges is shoe box size, big enough for a tub of ice cream and a bag of peas and the doors do not attach properly. Needless to say your ice cream is always soft and the frost build-up seems to spread like some crystallising fungus. It is a straight up nightmare. Hence I am spending my Sunday cleaning up melted ice cream in between recipe testing cookie batches and long heavy sighs of exasperation while I chisel out blocks of ice.

wedge of French custard dessert known as clafoutis studded with fresh summer cherries surrounded by white summer flowers
20cm size clafoutis French dessert of pancake batter and fresh cherries on a marble surface
large triangle slice of French Red cherry dessert on mint green plate atop marble counter

This Scottish summer has been pretty grey, sticky and humid so far. Summer really isn’t my favourite time of year and the humidity makes me curse out loud. If you follow me on instagram you may notice that I routinely complain when the mercury goes into double digits. I am a child of grey skies, bitter winds and icy rain. Summer leaves me drained and listless (so this flurry of cleaning and baking activity today is quite out of the ordinary).

Not without its perks though, Summer produce is unrivalled in deliciousness. Peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots. The odd mango, the sweetest British berries and tart plump little cherries. Oh the cherries!!

freshly baked cherry custard dessert dusted with icing sugar and served with fresh cherries

Do you ever feel at a loss at what to make with Summer produce? not for lack of ideas, more because you have far too many recipes to try and you end up paralysed with indecision? This is me frequently in the kitchen. Often what happens is I retreat in to the comfort and safety of old faithful recipes with maybe a tweak or two to see if they can be improved upon. Hence I present to you, Clafoutis. A happy accident that today is also Bastille Day. C’est bon!

Cherry clafoutis on pale green flower plate next to linen table cloth on marble counter sprinkled icing sugar
fresh red summer cherries
cherry clafoutis French dessert in flan tin
flan tin filled with cherry custard dessert next to fresh dark red cherries

More pancake that cake. More flan than tart. A Clafoutis is a dense custardy, cream dessert studded with cherries and spiced with amaretto. I have been making clafoutis for as long as I have been baking - the recipe I learnt from was pulled out of one of my mum’s old Better Homes and Garden’s magazines from the 80s. The hardest part of this recipe is probably the pronunciation of clafoutis - klah/foo/tee. There, hard part is over. Beautifully done. Everything else isa breeze. Pit the cherries, lay them in a dish, whisk together the batter ingredients as if you were making pancakes, pour over cherries, bake. Voila!


Bakers Notes:

  • The most tedious part of the recipe is pitting the cherries. This is entirely optional of course, some traditionalists will tell you to leave them be but because I am too tight to go to the dentist for a cracked tooth, I choose to pit them.

  • Use amaretto, but if you don’t have it almond extract will suffice.

  • This is a wonderfully interchangeable recipe. I have made it with apricots, blackberries, apples and plums in the past. Most fruits will work but dense less juicy/liquidy fruits work best.

  • I use a whisk, but if you have a blender or an immersion blender feel free to use this.

cherry almond clafoutis perfect summer dessert cracked custard top dusted with icing sugar surrounded by summer flowers and red cherries

CHERRY CLAFOUTIS/CLAFOUTIS AUX CERISES

INGREDIENTS:

450g/1lb cherries, stemmed and pitted

70g/ ½ cup plain all-purpose flour

100g/ ½ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

½ tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla beanextract

1 Tbsp Amaretto (substitue 1/4 tsp almond extract)

330ml/1 1/3 cup whole milk

30g/2 Tbsp butter, melted

Softened butter to grease your baking dish.

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF. Grease a shallow baking dish or pie plate liberally with butter.

  2. Stem and pit the cherries. Lay them in a single layer in the baking dish.

  3. Whisk together the flour and sugar. and salt Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and amaretto.

  4. Gradually whisk in the milk and melted butter until thoroughly combined.

  5. Pour the batter over the cherries.

  6. Bake the clafoutis until the custard is just set; a knife poked in the center should emerge relatively clean. It’ll take about 45 minutes.

  7. Serve warm or at room temperature. Or cold even.


wedge of French cherry custard dessert known as clafoutis served with fresh dark red summer cherries

Baked Mascarpone Cheesecake with Honey Roasted Plums


Baked vanilla cheesecake

I let my mind wander too far down some strange path last night and had to escape to the outside to remember how to breathe. The air was cold, really cold but the light wind that whipped drizzley rain about my face held so much warmth in it. It is that warm Northern wind that brings with it a sense of madness or urgency, the herald of change and anticipation.  I had my first taste of this year's Autumn last night, and it is delicious. 

Someone once told me it was bad blogging and boring writing to wax lyrical about the weather but I can't help it. And I am not sorry. The seasons are so very important on what we grow and how I bake. Summer always pass in a haze of stone fruit recipes. My cookbooks are covered in post-it notes, bookmarking recipes to try (but probably never will) with hastily scribbled additions or random sparks of inspiration (or idiocy depending on the day). And so that brings me to this baked cheesecake with plums roasted in honey. Decadent and delicious and oh so comforting. 

easy baked cheesecake
roasted plums stonefruit
roasted plums with pistachios

I made this mascarpone cheesecake a week ago. I put my faith in the beautiful Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2b Baking Co as I have never made cheesecake before so I have no real clue of what cheesecake should be like, unless you count my vegan raspberry cheesecake bars (which I don’t because they don't include cheese). The only cheesecake I can remember eating was in a tapas bar in Wellington New Zealand whilst I sat opposite a guy in glasses who wrote indecipherable songs on a napkin. The cheesecake we shared had a burnt sugar crust on top and tasted like a cloud of winter lemons. This cheesecake is nothing like the one I ate in that delicious memory but it is still bloody excellent. I roasted some plums in honey and ground cinnamon then placed them on a bed of velvety baked cream cheese and mascarpone. I added cardamom and ginger into the biscuit crust for some autumnal warmth. This cheesecake is creamy rather than cakey thanks to the mascarpone but this does mean it needs a longer sit time in the fridge to set and if you don't bake it long enough the centre can collapse a little under the weight of warm plums. 

Bakers Tips;

  • Ensure your ingredients are all at room temperature before beginning.

  • Don't place warm plums directly onto the cheesecake as it will soften it and it will likely collapse

  • Begin the day before so it can benefit from setting overnight in the fridge.

mascarpone cheesecake with roasted stone fruit

BAKED VANILLA MASCARPONE CHEESECAKE WITH ROASTED PLUMS & NATIVE VIOLETS

Adapted from Yossy Arefi over at Apt. 2b

INGREDIENTS:

For the Roasted Plums;

  • 1 kilo/ 2 Pounds fresh plums, halved and de-seeded

  • two large pinches of ground cinnamon

  • ½ Cup Honey

  • 2 Tbsp Water

For the Cheesecake:

  • 1 Packet Digestive Cookies (coarsely broken)

  • ½ Packet Butternut Cookies (coarsely broken)

  • 1 tsp, Ground ginger, heaped

  • ½ tsp Ground cardamom, heaped

  • 200 g butter, melted

  • 250 g/ 8.8 oz cream cheese

  • 250 g/ 8.8 oz mascarpone

  • ½ Golden Caster Sugar

  • 2 Large eggs

  • 2 tsp Vanilla bean paste

  • Pinch of salt

METHOD:

  1. Grease a 20cm/8 inch springform cake tin or loose bottom fluted pie tin. Place the digestive and butternut cookies in the bowl of a food processor with the ground cardamom and ginger and process until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process until well combined.

  2. Transfer the cookie crumb mixture to the prepared pan and press the mixture firmly over the base and sides of the pan. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

  3. Preheat oven to 180°C/355°F. Using electric hand-beaters or an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and mascarpone together. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla bean paste and salt and beat until smooth and well combined.

  4. Place the pan with the cookie base on an oven tray and pour the filling into the prepared cookie pan and bake for 30-40 minutes until tart appears set ( a little bit of a jiggle in the centre is ok). Leave the cheesecake to cool to room temperature then refrigerate for at least 5 hours but preferably overnight.

  5. To make the plums, place the plums cut side up in a roasting tray. Sprinkle with cinnamon and pour over the honey and water. Toss to combine. Bake in 160°C/320°F oven for 30-40 minutes. Stir them once or twice during their cook time. They should be soft and the juices should be syrupy Cool to room temperature.

  6. If using edible flowers like my native violets cut them fresh, make sure the stem is removed and wash. Lay on paper towel to dry.

  7. To serve place the cheesecake on a serving platter and top with roasted plums and the syrup. Scatter with crushed pistachios and native violets.


Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake Bars


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There have been countless mishaps in my kitchen that have brought me swearing to my knees. The collapsed souffle for instance. The beautiful chocolate cake that ended upside down on my cousins driveway before we could taste it. A piece of shit oven with no temperature regulation & a broken handle that we can't get fixed because the oven company has been liquidated and the brand owners are in jail for fraud. Or the vegan lemon cake that was a mushy disappointment and tasted like a weeping cold sore. And those are just this week's disasters.

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Although my control freak nature turns me into an irrational mad woman every time I fuck up, the challenges of the kitchen are my favourite kind. What are mistakes and challenges if not lessons. They improve us. After the debacle of the icky lemon cake I needed a success. And here it is. These raw vegan cheesecake bars. I am not vegan by any stretch of the imagination. Cream, butter, cheese, eggs and honey are just too important to give up. But embracing alternative plant based ingredients is something I am trying more of, it is kinder too. I have come to enjoy vegan baking. more that I thought I would. It is creative and often difficult - it challenges me

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The recipe took some tweaking; the first round was too sweet and the second was too grainy as my blender didn't live up to the task. You will need a high powered food processor or blender to get it really creamy. The third incarnation worked. Trusting the process and fixing the wrongs worked. It is not like a typical cheesecake - or what I imagine typical cheesecake to be like, I have never made or really eaten a cheesecake before. I find I like them better frozen rather than just set. It makes them more like an really tasty ice cream bar and in our suffocating summer heat what could be better.


Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake

INGREDIENTS:

For the Crust;

  • 1 Cup Walnuts

  • 1 Cup Dates

  • Large pinch of cinnamon

For the Cheesecake Filling;

  • 1½ Cups Cashews (soaked in water overnight)

  • 400ml can of coconut milk (just the cream off the top)

  • 1/4 Cup Rice Malt Syrup

  • 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste

  • 1 Cup Raspberries (thaw if using frozen)

  • 1 tsp maple syrup

METHOD:

  1. In a food processor combine all crust ingredients and pulse together until very crumbly. Line a 8x8 inch (20cm) square cake pan with baking paper. Pour the crust mixture into pan and using your hands press the mixture down. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

  2. Strain the cashews and using a really good blender pulse the nuts into a smooth cream. Add the coconut, rice malt syrup and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour the filling over the crust base and place back in the fridge.

  3. In a large bowl blend together the raspberries and maple syrup until smooth. Place large blobs of the raspberry puree on top of the cheesecake and swirl using a skewer in a figure 8 pattern.

  4. Place in the freezer for several hours to firm up. Store in the fridge if you prefer a softer texture or keep in the freezer for a more ice cream like texture.

  5. Cut into bars and serve.


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Healthy(ish) Banana Bread


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Bored. Frustrated. Infuriated. Apathetic. Numb. I could go on listing various synonyms but you get the idea. Essentially nothing new is happening so I am spending far too much time in my own head and it is making me edgy. Never a good sign. Trying to stem the tide of oncoming ennui or what my nanna might call " the Blues" I am trying to find something good in each day (sans the awful #liveauthenticbullshit). Chasing happiness i guess you could call it. We spent the weekend cleaning and rearranging. Summer is here after-all, time for change and shifting winter debris. I used up some overripe bananas and made out house smell sweet, casually adding to the illusion of domestic functionality. 

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Banana bread is homey though isn't it? Type " Banana Bread" into Google and literally 15 billion recipes pop up. So many claim to be the "Best Recipe" that it has sort of lost all meaning. Is there a best recipe?

There are the traditional buttery loaves, super sugary loaves, moist loaves, dry loaves, the gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free (occasionally enjoyment-free) varieties, recipes including chocolate, chia seeds or blueberries. Then there are the paleo varieties who owners insist are "like so delicious" despite the fact that many end up looking like shitty turd bricks. I like looking at the loaves with crunchy munch toppings, or are glammed up into desserts or the little loaves that look so sad you wonder why someone bothered to keep that recipe in circulation.

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I have experimented with a few and am yet to find a recipe I can comfortably call the "best".

My banana bread recipe is not the best. Far from it. But it is my favourite to use. Every home cook should and usually do have a solid trusty banana bread staple in their repertoire. It is rich, delicious, pillowy soft on the inside and crunchy sweet on the outside. This recipe is gluten free (for no other reason than I prefer the flavour and heaviness buckwheat flour lends to the bread). It is refined sugar free too, using coconut sugar and maple syrup instead. There is no butter, the fat comes from Greek yogurt and a little grapeseed oil. I like using the yogurt as  the acidity reacts with the baking soda creating carbon dioxide, allowing the bread to rise more, giving it a characteristic fluffiness. It is also an infinitely and gorgeously adaptable - flavour it with other fruits, chocolate chips, seeds, nuts etcetera etcetera. Whatever is delicious, in season or in your pantry. 

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HEALTHY(ISH) BANANA BREAD 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 Cups/230g Buckwheat flour

  • 1 Cup Coconut Sugar or Rapadura Sugar*

  • 1 tsp Gluten-free Baking powder

  • 1 tsp Gluten-free Bicarb Soda

  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp Mixed Spice

  • 4 Overripe Bananas**, mashed

  • 1 Egg, at room temperature

  • 1/2 Cup/ 150 grams Greek yogurt (unsweetened)

  • 1/4 Cup/60ml Grapeseed Oil/Rice Bran oil

  • 1/3 Cup/80 ml pure Maple Syrup

  • 2 tsp Vanilla Bean paste

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 160C/325F. Lightly grease a standard loaf tin (1.75Litre Capacity).

  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb and spices).

  3. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the wet ingredients (bananas, egg, yogurt, oil, maple syrup and vanilla).

  4. Fold into the dry ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf tin and bake in oven for 1 hour or until cooked through.

  5. Brush with some extra maple syrup to glaze while cooling.


Notes:-

*Coconut sugar is from the sap of the flowers of the coconut palm. Rapadura sugar is similar to brown sugar but is produced from cane sugar juice, retaining most of natural vitamins and minerals as its is not separated from the molasses part of the sugar cane. 
** If your bananas are not at the overripe stage you can speed up the process using Kelsey's (from Appeasing a Food Geek) method. She also explains why you should be using overripe bananas for banana breads. 

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Brown Butter Peach Blondies


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Fruit Trees

My hands are covered in tiny cuts from digging out peach pits and my shoulders are burnt from lingering too long under the sun. That autumnal change I so long for is still eluding us. These swelling afternoons of January make me recall something about the smell of ripe stone fruit and petrichor - the earthy scent of rain on hot pavement.

I spend a lot of time in my head in summer, it is cooler in there. Recollections and thoughts float by all day in a constant steady stream. Some are intangible like clouds that you just can't hold onto, others are wispy and frail like feathers. Some smack you right in the gut without a moments notice and leave you gasping for air holding onto the bench top for support.

Those are the thoughts I try to avoid - disagreeable memories, worries, nasty faces and whispers, all that negative psychological detritus. I try and let it float right on past me and I am getting better at it. A thousand times a day these spindly little uglies drift past and instead of latching on and breathing life into them I just let them flow on until all I am left with is peaches and petrichor. Some might call detachment. But for me it is peace. 

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Our peach tree has finished for the year. Next week will be the plum harvest and it all starts again. Picking, sorting, cutting, peeling, boiling, baking. Like some sort of demented mantra. This is how I spend my summer days at the moment. I will be off to Hobart this week which should offer some reprieve from the sweltering heat and the mind numbing repetitiveness. I couldn't be more excited. 
Before I leave though I had a small collection of peaches left, the last precious few and I was at a loss at what to do with them. I had baked them into cakes, pies and made so much jam and peach curd, more than we will eat in a year (recipes coming soon I promise!!). I wanted something small but decadent. So blondies it is!

I love a good blondie. Almost as much as I enjoy making them. They are fudgy and delicious, made even better by the addition of browned butter to the batter which gives them a greater depth of flavour and nutty undertones. They are filled with chunks of white chocolate and sweet fruity peach bursts. 

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Brown Butter & Peach Blondies With Caramelised White Chocolate Glaze

INGREDIENTS:

For the  Blondies:

  • 120 grams/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter

  • /2 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup raw sugar

  • 1 large free range egg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • pinch of salt

  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

  • 8 firm ripe peaches, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped

*For the White Chocolate Glaze:

  • 250g White chocolate, chopped

  • 1/3 Cup single cream

  • 2 Tbsp softened cream cheese

METHOD:

For the glaze:

  1. Preheat the oven to 120 (C)/ 250 (F).

  2. In a deep sided baking dish, place the chopped white chocolate. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and using a spatula spread into an even layer. Place back into the oven for another 10 minutes, remove and stir. Repeat for the next 30 minutes (take out and stir roughly 4 times) until golden brown (don't worry if it looks a little dusty or chalky - it will all come together with the cream). Preheat oven to 180 (C)/375 (F).*

  3. Transfer the chocolate into a big bowl. Heat the cream in a small pan over high heat. Take off when it starts to simmer, (do not boil). Whisk the hot cream into the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Beat the cream cheese in. Set aside.

For the Brown Butter Blondies:

  1. Grease and line with baking paper a 20 cm/ 8-inch square cake pan.

  2. In a medium, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, melt the butter. The butter should be taken off the heat when it starts turning a brown colour and emitting a nutty aroma. Cool slightly.

  3. Beat together the butter and both sugars until smooth. Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract until well incorporated.

  4. Sift flour, cinnamon and salt into the butter mixture, Fold in gently until just combined. Fold in gently 1 cup white chocolate chips and peach slices.

  5. Pour the blondie batter into the prepared baking pan. Make sure the top is smooth and even. Scatter the remaining white chocolate pieces over the top.

  6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Cover the tin with foil if the white chocolate is browning too quickly. The edges should be a lovely golden brown. Don't worry too much if the middle is still a little wet - they will set more as they cool. Drizzle the caramelised white chocolate glaze over the blondies while they cool. Once cooled completely cut into squares and enjoy!


Notes:-

* For the glaze you can skip the caramelisation process and just add 250g of white chocolate to hot cream as in step 3 to make a white chocolate ganache.

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