Thursday, 26 September 2013

Damson flan

The harvest from my colleagues continues. This time I was dealing with a previously unknown greatness - damson. Part of the plum family, this little sweetheart is at its best and ripest, wonderfully sweet, yet has the kind of plum-like tartness. 

It's quite temperamental in that according to one of my colleagues they don't often have enough time to ripen in Finnish hemisphere. 

Trying to process a damson can be quite temperamental as well - cutting it neatly in half in order to remove the pit isn't anywhere as straightforward it sounds. Most of the flesh tends to come with the pit. Apparently a good tool for this is the sort of pitting tool usually used on olives. And so the wishlist grows with yet another gadget. It already boasts a pasta machine, blowtorch, wood-burning oven and a meat mill. Hanukkah can't come soon enough!

I didn't feel like starting a WI-style jam operation though so instead I decided to surprise my colleagues with something else. Such as flan

Time I've spent in Brittany has left me wonderful memories not just of the Sunday markets when the fishermen would come to the shore and sell the most deliciously fresh goodies for Sunday lunch, but also of crêpes, a traditional Breton (not French!) treat of stuffed thin pancakes made with buckwheat, and flan.  It also left me fascinated with their bizarre, Celtic language consisting of letters nobody else would have even thought of.

Flan, or far, as they call it in Breton, is much like another French delicacy of clafoutis, only flan is denser and thicker. Traditionally it would be made with plums or prunes, but cherries also make a good substitution. As do damsons!

Rosemary added a nice tough to the clafoutis I've made with nectarines and it does works beautifully with plums and figs too. So I added some to the damsons too, though this time I didn't want to add it directly into the batter. Instead I threw the last sprigs from my window sill into the milk which I then brought to boil letting it then cool, leaving the sprigs in to infuse their flavour. Used like this you need more than you would when chopping them directly into the batter - up to 4 sprigs depending on how strong and piney you want the flavour. Another thing that would work well is cinnamon. Infuse some in the milk in a similar manner or sprinkle some ground one into the batter (in which case the batter loses the creamy whiteness it should, in the most puristic opinion, have).

Unfortunately I have no idea where I have copied the original recipe. It has been modified to the one below in order to achieve the texture and height that my favourite flans have shared. I prefer a flan on the denser side, so if you want your more... wobbly and custard-like decrease the quantity of flour, for instance to 5 tbsp. If you want it really dense, increase it to 7 tbsp. Do remember that it will get firmer as it cools too.

The dish I used measures appr. 16 cm x 24 cm.

A couple of dl of damsons

5 eggs
5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1,5 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp all purpose flour
4,5 dl (full fat) milk
(3-4 sprigs of rosemary)
1 tbsp butter

Beat the eggs to a billowy, pale golden foam. Then, while continuing to beat, add sugar along with salt and vanilla. Then add flour, one tablespoon at a time. According to the original recipe the spoonfuls should be "gently rounded yet not generous". Continue to mix until you have a smooth, thickish, creamy batter. Then add milk, a little at a time. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least two hours.

Heat the oven to 220°. Once it's hot,  drop the butter into the dish you're using and place the dish in the oven. When the butter has melted, carefully remove the dish from the oven and spread the butter evenly onto the bottom and sides. Then sprinkle the berries/ fruit you're using at the bottom and and pour the mixture on top. Return to the oven and lower the heat to 180°. Bake for 25-35 minutes until it's got a little bit of colour and puffed up a bit. 

Let cool and sprinkle some icing sugar on top. Some prefer it while it's still a bit warm, some, like yours truly, prefer it the following day. But hey, c'est la vie!





  1. I have never seen a damson plum in Western Australia and I am wondering what type of plum would make a good substitute. It seems as though apart from being rather small it is the firmness and tartness of this fruit that is its trademark? I can just imagine that flavour with the flavour and scent of rosemary - very strange, yet compelling. I would love to give this a go.

  2. You got me there - I didn't know there were different kinds of plums :-/ Any plum, I would imagine! The taste of damson is very much like plum, as is the texture. When it's ripe, it's sweet, but when it's not, it's like a wine that's rich in tannins - it really sucks the life out of your cheeks :-) I so love rosemary and find that it works really well in desserts too, especially with lemon!