My low-carb swap of the week is a French Cherry & Almond Clafoutis – a beautiful, lightly-sweet & tart combination of egg & almond batter encasing plump, juicy, summer fruit and some full-on good nutrition.
You may be well familiar with a French ‘clafoutis’. But if you’re going to ask me what it is, there is no better source for an explanation than Larousse Gastronomique – the encyclopaedia of French cuisine.
Larousse describes classic clafoutis as a dessert of black cherries arranged in a buttered dish and covered with fairly thick pancake batter. In its home-region, Limousin, it was originally made using the local griottes, or sour morello cherries. However, clafoutis is now found served throughout France when cherries are in season, and many recipes use more readily-available sweet red cherries, or other types of soft fruit.
The clafoutis recipe I’ve devised here is very quick indeed to put together, were it not for the need to pit the cherries. I used this cherry and olive pitter, which does the job efficiently, and as quickly as is possible I think.
A time-saving alternative, that also improves the clafoutis’ cherry-flavour, and is in keeping with the Limousin original recipe, is to leave in the pits – as long as you don’t mind you and your guests having to pick them out as you eat it that is. Or if you want to save time and even more carbs (see below), you could make this with raspberries. Or use other soft fruits that either don’t need pitting, or are potentially less fiddly, such as blueberries, peaches, blackberries, or plums.
The cherry version of this dish is full of fruits that are still firm to the bite, but burst with juiciness. The taste of the cherries really shines through the eggy and almondy batter, creating a whole which is mildly sweet, but with a tart, and slightly savoury, edge.
The consistency of the finished dish will be a bit wobbly, like a good clafoutis should be – being essentially a sort of egg custard that’s had some flour (almonds in this case), and really quite a lot of fruit, thrown in.
Don’t be tempted to launch into your clafoutis as soon as it comes out of the oven. It’s at its most beautiful when left to cool so that it is just still lukewarm when serving. That resting process allows the egg to continue to firm-up, so that it is cohesive, but still wobbly, when you slice it. So just perfect for a dinner party pudding then, as you could be getting this out of the oven just before you serve the starters (or main course if you like to take things slower and have a pre-pudding break). And being so full of fruit, it’s not a heavy end to your meal.
Leftovers keep well covered in the fridge. Some of the fruit juice may have seeped into the batter by the next day, so it doesn’t look quite as perfect as the first serving, but it will still taste great!
Nutrition count: Regular Clafoutis vs. Low-Carb Cherry & Almond Clafoutis vs. Even-Lower-Carb Raspberry Clafoutis
If you choose to make this with cherries, as I have done, there are three areas in which you’re saving carbs over the traditional recipe. That is, by using (i) ground almonds instead of flour; (ii) xylitol instead of sugar; and (iii) unsweetened almond milk instead of cow’s milk (that being carbier than you might think, because it contains the natural sugar lactose).
So, assuming you would have been making the original using semi-skimmed milk, the low-carb cherry version comes in at less than half the net carbs. (Read my post from last week about xylitol and why, as a polyol, it doesn’t count towards ‘net’ carbs. And also about why you may not wish to include xylitol in your diet if you suffer from IBS, or are on a low-FODMAP diet).
Regarding food intolerances and allergens, this low-carb clafoutis is, of course, made gluten-free by removal of flour, and lactose-free by removal of cow’s milk. But it is obviously not for people who have a nut allergy that extends to almonds.
You’ll see from the numbers below that you’re getting a whisker more fibre and protein with this recipe over the original. You’re also getting a few more calories – but low-carb eating is far more about controlling your carb intake than it is about counting every single calorie. And the additional healthy fat from the almonds in this low-carb version will help to minimise a blood sugar spike, and to keep you fuller for longer.
I’m not following a very low-carb, high-fat, keto way of eating at the moment – but keeping my carb intake low, around 50g a day. So, having chosen judiciously the other foods I ate on the day I made this, to make sure they were very low-carb, I could easily afford to enjoy a slice of clafoutis containing cherries – the ingredient with the highest carbs in this dish. But if you want to go even lower-carb, then use raspberries instead of cherries, which saves you another 8g of net carbs, or an enormous 33g per serving over the original (calculated using 600g of raspberries) and gives you 4g more fibre too.
|Per serving (one-sixth of a clafoutis)||Regular Cherry Clafoutis||Low-Carb Cherry & Almond Clafoutis||Even Lower-Carb Raspberry & Almond Clafoutis|
|– of which polyols (sugar alcohols)||0||9||9|
|= net carbs||40||15||7|
Source: figures calculated using verified information from the MyFitnessPal Database
Other Health Benefits
Let’s have a closer look at the effect on health of some of the main ingredients in the low-carb cherry and almond clafoutis.
Cherries – especially sweet ones – are nutritionally-dense and full of antioxidants, including vitamins A and C, plus flavonoid anthocyanins and proanthocyanins, which give them their deep red/blue colour. In general, the darker the cherry, the better it is for you – because it means it contains more flavonoids.
A scientific review in 2011 concluded that more well-designed studies were needed to substantiate the wider health benefits of cherries. Nevertheless, it found that the nutrients and bioactive compounds that cherries contain support the potential prevention of many diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and gout. Cherries also contain melatonin, which not only influences sleep patterns, but is also another bioactive antioxidant.
Almonds are an enormously healthy food. They are a good source of fibre, monounsaturated fat and protein. While this is not complete protein (i.e. it doesn’t contain every amino acid essential for life), almonds are rich in the amino acid arginine, which contributes to efficient wound-healing, and also heart health through acting to lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. Other reviews have indicated that nuts, including almonds, are useful for helping to control blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. So that’s a proactively good effect on blood sugar control, on top of the fact that you’ve already removed high-carb ingredients in this recipe.
Eggs are an exceptional source of low-cost, high-quality protein and other nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, folate and iodine. Because of their significant vitamin D content, it is especially good to make sure you’re including them in your diet in the winter months when – certainly in the Northern hemisphere – we are not getting enough sun to make our own. And I prefer to buy eggs laid by hens fed to produce ones with an omega 3 fatty acid content (otherwise eggs contain virtually no omega 3).
Eggs were once thought to raise cholesterol in the body, because they contain cholesterol themselves. You’re probably already aware that many recent studies have now disproven this. It is now understood that it is excessive saturated fat in the diet – rather than dietary cholesterol – that influences ‘bad’ LDL blood cholesterol the most. Indeed, the likelihood is that the excellent nutritional content of eggs is more likely to mean that they actively contribute to preventing heart disease, rather than the opposite.
A word on the almond milk you use. Personally, I prefer to buy almond milk and other products that don’t contain carrageenan. This is an ingredient made from a red seaweed and routinely used as an emulsifier to improve ‘mouthfeel’ in many foods like cows’ milk substitutes and yogurts. It is a permitted ingredient, but a controversial one. It is debated scientifically about whether it is linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and cancer, and its use is banned in baby milk in the EU (although not in the US). On balance, I choose to avoid it in my diet.
Also, you need to be sure to get an unsweetened almond milk if you want to avoid a higher-carb and calorie count for this dish. I prefer Alpro unsweetened and unroasted almond milk, as it has a much stronger almond taste than their roasted version, and so I think it better complements the taste of the almonds already in this recipe. However, the roasted version tends to be more readily available and is absolutely fine if you can’t get unroasted. And of course, there are other almond milk brands available, including supermarket brands, which are also unsweetened and carrageenan-free.
Recipe for Low-Carb Cherry & Almond Clafoutis
25 mins prep (less if you choose not to pit cherries)
40 mins cooking
- 5g butter, for greasing
- 750g cherries weighed with stones, then pitted (or use 600g if you’re using raspberries or other fruit without stones)
- 125g ground almonds
- 50g xylitol (see last week’s post)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
- 300ml unsweetened almond milk
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/360°F/Gas 4.
- Wipe the butter around the inside of a shallow, ovenproof dish and then put the cherries in it.
- Put the ground almonds in a large mixing bowl (some supermarket brands are ground more coarsely then others, so I prefer first to give them a few quick pulses in the food processor to make them finer. But it’s up to you).
- Mix the xylitol into the almonds and make a well in the middle.
- Whisk the eggs, then add the almond milk and almond/vanilla extract to them, and whisk again.
- Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry, beating constantly until all the liquid has been added and you have a smooth batter.
- Pour the batter over the fruit.
- Bake for around 40 minutes until the batter is golden on top and firm to the touch.
- Leave to cool, until it is just lukewarm, before serving.