Unappreciated until after his death, Gauguin pioneered the Symbolist art movement and set stage for Fauvism and Expressionism. His early childhood spent in Peru left him with a taste for the exotic. After yet another commercial failure of his art, he left the urban jungle of Paris for the tropical paradise of Tahiti in 1891. His goal was to create pure, “primitive” art by the returning to the pastoral. It was there he painted his masterpiece “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”, a meditation on the evolution of man from birth to death.
Gauguin abandoned his life as a stockbroker to pursue his artistic dream and search for the pure form. He was not only a painter but also a sculptor and a printmaker. He frequently travelled to the south Pacific where he developed a new style influenced by the “primitive” arts of Africa, Asia, and French Polynesia. In 1895 he moved to French Polynesia without his family and remained there for the rest of his days. His art depicts everyday scenes painted with vivid colours, in a symbolic rather than a realistic manner. He took a philosophical approach to art and posed questions about the meaning of human existence. He believed that non-western people are more spiritual and that living with harmony with nature is a better way of life as compared to industrially developed and “artificial” life of the Western world.
Gauguin’s naturalistic forms and spiritual motifs of exotic cultural traditions had a great influence on Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and their development of Cubism. His un-realistic bold colour style had a significant impact on Fauvists like André Derain and Henri Matisse. His legacy lives on as of the one who achieved ultimate artistic freedom and became a wandering mystic.
“Civilization is what makes you sick.”
– Paul Gauguin
“Still Life With Cherries” is Gauguin’s painting from his Breton period. He lived for a couple of years on a various locations in Brittany; in Pont-Aven, Le Pouldu, and in Arles where he had a turbulent artistic relationship with Vincent van Gogh. This Post-Impressionism painting has a certain romantic and idyllic feel to it. It makes me think of summer on the country side, with no worries, spending time relaxing in the garden and eating grandma’s pie or fresh fruit handpicked from the trees. It’s simple and pure.
Clafoutis is a traditional dessert from the Limousin region of France made of black cherries covered with flan-like batter. It’s crispy from outside and soft and creamy from inside. It simply melts in your mouth! It’s a heavenly experience for those who like me are crazy about cherries.
I made my cherry clafoutis after the recipe of Raymond Blanc, a famous French chef, adapting it a little to my taste. I find that most of recipes use way too much sugar. It’s not healthy and sometimes goes to the point that one can’t taste anything but sugar. Cherries are perfect the way they are. Especially if you want to dust them with powder sugar afterward you don’t need to add much sugar to the batter.
I really love the idea of macerating cherries in Kirsch. It does intensify the flavour!
Traditionally, clafoutis are made with unpitted cherries which supposedly add a nutty flavour to it. To me traditional doesn’t always mean the best and I rather avoid the choking hazard or a broken tooth. For the extra flavour we can add some almond essence.
It is best to eat the cherry clafoutis lukewarm and straight from the ramekins. I took them out for the purpose of the photo shoot, but it’s quite difficult and you are risking making a mess of them or burning yourself.
For the cherries
- 450g cherries, pitted
- 3 Tbsp Kirsch
- 1 Tbsp cane sugar
For the batter
- 2 eggs
- 20g unsalted butter, plus extra to grease
- 50g all-purpose flour
- 50ml whole milk
- 75ml whipping cream
- 3 Tbsp cane sugar, plus extra to coat
- 1/2 tsp almond essence
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- pinch of salt
- powdered sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Put the cherries in a bowl, add Kirsch and 1 Tbsp of sugar, mix and leave to marinate for about an hour.
Grease 6 shallow ramekins ( I used 10.2 x 4.8 cm) with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Turn the ramekins around to make sure the inside is evenly coated with sugar. Tip out the excess.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Heat the butter in a small pan until it becomes “ beurre noisette”, turns a light hazelnut colour. Be very careful to not burn the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond essence until creamy.
Add the flour and salt and whisk until smooth. Slowly pour the milk, cream and beurre noisette in while whisking for a few more moments.
Divide the cherries into ramekins. Mix the marinate juice into the batter and pour into the ramekins
until the cherries are almost covered.
Bake the clafoutis for about 30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the tester comes out clean. Clafoutis will rise high in the oven but after being taken out will collapse quickly, which is perfectly normal.
Let the clafoutis cool down a bit, sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired, and serve at room temperature.