I’m away from DC right now, traveling for work in Mozambique. It feels strange—something of a betrayal—to be writing here, when the Yellow House has become so much about a concrete space, its modest garden, the seasons that whirl around it, and the people who make it home. By contrast, I’m in a cool, tidy hotel with far too much room for one visitor. I worry that my green tomatoes have turned red with no one to harvest them. I fret that a neighbor will email my landlady to complain about our unkempt front garden. I’m happy, though, that I brought along the pictures of this little brown cake. I love traveling and feel grateful to have seen the corners of our world that I have, but I have reservations about not being able to cook for myself while I’m gone. People talk about “eating their way” through a city or country, and I understand that love of regional flavor. I’m more of a street food/local ingredients person, though. Growing up, my parents would always rent a flat with a kitchen when we traveled, and my mom would bring Louise and I to the market (after making sure we knew the right phrases in Italian) to buy ingredients for dinner. On business travel—especially in a sub-Saharan African capital city—options like that are limited. After two weeks, I am so tired of restaurants. Looking at these pictures indulges my home(kitchen)sickness. I’ve been grooving on nutty, grey buckwheat (whether in cake, noodle, or crêpe form) for awhile now. I love buckwheat for its ability to turn a baked good from yellow and fine-crumbed to something denser and heartier. A clafoutis is actually supposed to be flan-like or custard-y, but ultimately, what I was really looking for was to combine this with a few pounds of cherries that I bought. A cake versatile enough for breakfast or a snack, as opposed to just dessert. (Blah, blah, not-too-sweet cakes—I am in a boring cake rut, aren’t I? I’m going to bake a sugary dessert soon just to remind myself I’m not ninety years old yet.)
I messed with the ingredients, trying to incorporate some buttermilk I had around, and ended up with that spectacularly crumb-y texture for which I set off looking. It keeps well and travels well, too. This is the kind of cake just asking you to cut a thin slice, pour a cup of coffee, and watch the sun rise.
Buckwheat cherry clafoutis
Adapted from my previously adapted version of David Lebovitz’s buckwheat breton cake from The Sweet Life in Paris
You will need
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 cup demerara (or turbinado, or even brown) sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons dark rum (I really wanted some kirsch to add to this, but didn’t have it—go for it if you have it on hand!)
About one pound Bing cherries (or your choice of cherries), pitted and halved
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, rum, egg yolks, and buttermilk. Mix dry ingredients together and stir gradually into butter-sugar-egg mixture. The batter will be quite thick, almost like cookie dough. If it seems too thick and dry, add a bit more buttermilk. Smooth batter into a buttered 10-inch cast iron skillet (or, alternatively, a 9-inch springform pan).
Firmly stud the surface of the batter with the halved cherries, as densely or sparsely scattered as you’d like. There will be some oozing juice. This is a good thing.
Bake for 20-40 minutes (really depends on your pan size). The cake will be light-golden on top. Keep an eye on it; you still want your cake to be tender, and if cooking in cast iron, it will still bake a bit more when it comes out of the oven.