Cherry Clafoutis

The arrival of cherries, for me, marks the true arrival of summer. In the UK, summer is a fleeting season that should be celebrated with equally bright and ephemeral berries and fruit. Cherries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, all should be unapologetically brandished in tarts, pies, galettes, or even simply macerated and adorned with a dollop of whipped cream.

A clafoutis is a simple baked custard that lets the fruit shine. Clafoutis originates from the Limousin region of France, renowned for its agricultural products. Traditionally, cherries are baked into the clafoutis without pitting them, lending a bitter-almond taste to the custard. Cherry pits contain benzaldehyde, a chemical also found in almond extract. If you prefer to pit them, add 1/8 teaspoon almond extract to the batter.

The batter can also be used with other fruits, such as blueberries, raspberries or stone fruits. When made with other fruits, it is called flaugnarde

Ingredients

500g cherries
100g sugar
125g plain flour
3 eggs
300ml whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

Prepare the baking dish:

Generously butter a 24-cm (9-inch) round baking dish.

Prepare the cherries:

Wash and stem the cherries, but do not pit them. Dry them and pour them in a single layer in the baking dish.

Mix the dry ingredients:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.

Mix the wet ingredients:

In a small bowl, beat the eggs, then stir them into the flour.

Pour in the milk and vanilla extract, whisking until it forms a uniform mixture.

Pour over the batter:

Pour the batter evenly over the cherries.

Bake the clafoutis:

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until the custard is just set. It will be puffed and brown.

Clafoutis can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.

Pistachio Chocolate Chip Biscotti

While summer has just begun, the warm weather is begging for seasonal delights. The pistachio harvest won’t start until August or September, but pistachios, lemon and chocolate are a fun, fair weather combination.

While these cookies are well-known outside of Italy with the name biscotti, meaning ‘twice cooked,’ in Italy they are more commonly called Cantucci or Cantuccini. They originate from the Tuscan city of Prato. The cookies are very dry so that they can be stored for long periods of time, especially for long journeys.

A dry, crisp cookie, naturally needs a beverage for dunking. Another fact about biscotti misinterpreted abroad is pairing them with coffee. While no doubt a delicious pairing, biscotti are traditionally served with Vin Santo instead of coffee. Vin Santo is a dessert wine from Tuscany made from white grapes, such as Trebbiano or Malvasia. In the traditional method for making Vin Santo, the grapes are left on straw mats to dry and concentrate the sugars before fermenting. Not all of the sugar is metabolized by the yeast, leaving residual sugar in the wine.

The most famous Cantuccini are the Biscottoficio Antonio Mattei Biscotti di Prato. The original recipe is simple: just flour, sugar, eggs and either almonds or pine nuts, with no fat or yeast added to the dough. Then the dough is baked twice; once in a slab, then sliced and baked again. You will notice, the recipe below follows the traditional recipe, with some non-traditional flavorings added in.

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

Yields about 30 cookies

Ingredients:

330g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt

3 eggs
200g sugar
2 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

115g whole shelled pistachios
75g chopped chocolate

Preheat the oven:

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).

Mix the dry ingredients:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Mix the wet ingredients:

In a small bowl rub the lemon zest into the sugar. This serves a dual purpose: the essential oils from the zest will infuse the sugar with flavor, and it will prevent clumps of zest in the cookies.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs. While whisking, slowly add in the sugar and lemon zest. Mix in the vanilla extract.

Combine:

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently fold to combine using a rubber spatula. Add the pistachios and chocolate chunks and mix just to combine, being careful not to overmix.

Divide into to logs:

Divide the dough in half and shape each into a log on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Wet your hands so the dough does not stick to you. Each log should be about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 8 cm) wide.

First bake:

Bake the logs until they are golden around the edges and the middle is cooked through, about 25 – 30 minutes. Let them cool for 30 minutes until easily handled.

Slice:

Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 1/2-inch (1.5cm) thick slices.

Second Bake:

Lay the sliced biscotti flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake again until evenly golden and crisp, about 15 – 20 minutes. Flip the biscotti half way through the bake time so they bake evenly.

Notes:

I kept them in the oven with the oven turned off for a while to let them dry out more.

The biscotti can be kept for about 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Blueberry Lavender Scones

Does scone rhyme with “tone” or with “gone”? Most of the UK, Canada and Australia will argue that it rhymes with gone, while southern England, the Republic of Ireland and Americans argue that it rhymes with tone.

Scones are an important part of the anglo culture. They can be anything from a rushed convenience food to an elegant staple of high tea. Scones were originally a round, flat cake cooked in a skillet and cut into triangular wedges for serving. Nowadays, with baking powder widely available, they are baked in the oven and can be round, triangular or even square.

It is unseasonably warm this weekend in London (read: not grey and warmer than 15°C). To welcome the unexpected summer weather, this weeks recipe is for blueberry lavender scones.

These are not Mary Berry’s plain scones or the posh little rounds served at £50 high tea. These are rustic, but tender home-baked scones with flavor. The lavender adds a floral hint that pairs well with early-mid summer fruit like blueberries or raspberries. If you are not a fan of lavender, substitute with some lemon zest for blueberry lemon scones.

Blueberry Lavender Scones

Yields 8 scones

Ingredients:

240g flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
66g sugar
1 teaspoon lavender, ground into a powder

115g cold butter, diced

1 egg
120ml cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Mix the dry ingredients:

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if mixing by hand), whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and lavender powder.

Cut in the butter:

With the mixer on low to medium, add the cold bits of butter and mix until the mixture is sandy with pea-sized bits of butter. If mixing by hand, use a pastry blender. 

The goal here is the break up the butter and distribute it through the dry ingredients. The fat in the butter coats the flour and prevents some of the gluten development, resulting in a “shorter” dough. The larger bits of butter will create a flaky scone as the butter melts and the moisture evaporates in the hot oven.

Mix the wet ingredients:

In a small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, mix together the egg, heavy cream and vanilla extract.

Pour in the wet ingredients:

With the mixer on low, pour in the wet ingredients. Stop mixing just before it comes together so you can add the blueberries and finish mixing by hand. You do not want to over mix or the scones will be dense and tough.

Add the blueberries:

Add the blueberries and finish mixing gently with a rubber spatula, being careful not to crush the blueberries. (It is an impossible task, some blueberries will inevitably break, but the goal is to avoid making purple scones.)

Shape the scones:

Gently scoop out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough into a circle roughly one inch thick (2.5cm). Then, slice the circle into 8 equal-sized wedges.

Bake the scones:

Transfer the scones onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the scones for 18 to 20 minutes until lightly golden on top.