Friday, June 27, 2008
At this time of year among the French, clafoutis is a ritual. But for many Americans, clafoutis is considered an acquired taste. There are certainly quite a lot of ho-hum versions out there and if you don’t care for eggs, this probably isn’t the dish for you. Some versions of this simple cherry dessert are more like a sweet Yorkshire Pudding or a pancake and other versions are more custard-like. And there are many versions that are somewhere in between.
Clafoutis is a 19th century dessert that originated in the region of Limousin in central France. In the traditional version, cherries are left unpitted to impart more flavor, but American versions usually call for pitted cherries to avoid the heartbreak of dentistry. There are also many variations that call for other fruit, such as apricots, plums or pears. When other fruits are used, it is called a flognarde.
Since it’s cherry season and I was headed to a French dinner, I decided to give clafoutis another go. To ensure its lusciousness, I’ve found that using an abundance of fruit is crucial so that the fruit juices permeate the flavor and texture of the pudding. I also think the only way to eat this is warm while it’s still loose. Some people like a garnish of vanilla ice cream, which certainly takes it to a whole new level. If you’re game, try your hand at your own variation and join us in praise of cherries.
- I’ve added a pinch of salt, some acid and alcohol to the batter, which affect the process of coagulation and texture of the pudding and serve to tenderize it a bit.
- Be sure your cherries are very ripe. You can even toss them with a bit of sugar and lemon juice and roast them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes to bring out the flavor à la Chez Panisse. Drain off the juices, which can be reduced and used to garnish the baked dessert.
- You can omit the alcohol and simply use the vanilla and add a 1/4 t of quality almond extract. You can add a pinch of cinnamon. You can even substitute some crème fraiche or plain yogurt for the milk.
- I baked these individual servings for 25 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/4 lb cherries
2 oz butter, melted
1/2 C sugar
3 eggs @ room temperature
1 egg yolk @ room temperature
1 C heavy cream @ room temperature
1 C milk @ room temperature
pinch of salt
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 t lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract
3 T brandy, cognac or kirsch
1/4 cup flour, sifted
optional: confectioners' sugar for dusting
1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the baking dish with melted butter and dust thoroughly with sugar. Set remaining butter aside.
Distribute the cherries evenly in the dish.
Whisk the 1/2 C sugar, salt and the eggs together until frothy. Add the milk, cream and remaining melted butter and combine thoroughly. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and brandy or liqueur. Sift in the flour and stir just until well blended. Strain the batter into another bowl, zest the lemon and whisk. Pour over the cherries.
Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes until brown and puffy.
Cool for a few minutes. The clafoutis will deflate within a minute. Dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired. Serve warm.