Nothing makes us happier than growing, cooking, eating and sharing our own food. But there is a slight tyranny to the seasons. If you have cherries, you are cooking with cherries, period. And our Bing cherries are at their peak, so we picked them all. One small tree gave us four large bowls of cherries…all at once. Happily, cherries lend themselves to all sorts of dishes and cocktails (and we do seem to like eating and drinking). So this week you may see cherries in all sorts of dishes. But for now, let’s start with a classic cherry dessert, clafoutis.
Clafoutis is a French dessert that combines cherries baked in a light batter, often with some added almond flavor. Think of the batter as “flan-meets-pancake” and you can get an idea of the light, yet rich, texture that rightfully lets the cherries star in the dish. Originally clafoutis featured sour or black cherries with the pits still in. Supposedly the pits add extra almond-like flavor, but as we have Bing cherries and like our teeth, we put pitted Bing cherries and almond extract in our clafoutis. You can also use this basic recipe with other stone fruits or berries, but if you want to be technical it would then be a flaugnarde, but feel free to call it a clafoutis- we won’t tell anyone.
As for the recipe, clafoutis is a classic dish and there are many recipes out there. We chose to adapt an Alice Waters recipe that adds a few extra steps, but also adds extra flavor. In this case we season and pre-bake the cherries before we add them to the clafoutis. The extra cooking improves the flavor and texture of the cherries, but also leaves behind the base of a syrup you can reduce and drizzle on top of the clafoutis at service. Good stuff. We also prefer to cook clafoutis (and many desserts) in individual ramekins, we think it looks good and makes leftovers easier to handle, but a large baking dish works for this recipe as well.
Assembling the clafoutis is a pretty easy affair. Pre-cook the cherries, save the syrup, butter your baking dish(es), place the fruit in the dishes, make and add the batter and bake. The batter is the only part of the recipe that requires some extra effort, you need to whip egg whites and then fold them into the batter for the right texture. The clafoutis bakes for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees. While the clafoutis bakes, reduce your cherry syrup for a tasty and pretty sauce. When the clafoutis is done, add the sauce, dust with powdered sugar and serve.
And then prepare for smiling faces. The clafoutis is a beautiful dessert that matches its looks with great flavor and texture. The cherries shine with their sweet / tart flavor that is amplified by the almond and the sweet cake. The “cake” is, as we noted earlier, is rich but remarkably light. And we discovered one extra bonus, the clafoutis is also tasty the next day, served chilled. So if you like it, feel free to serve any clafoutis left over for breakfast.
(Adapted from Alice Waters)
Notes Before You Start:
- Bing cherries are preferred for this recipe, but any sweet cherry will work, you may need to adjust the recipe to add sweetness.
- If not using individual ramekins, use a baking dish that fits the cherries in one layer.
What You Get: A classic cherry dessert. Tasty and very pretty.
What You Need: No special equipment required, but after you remove the pits from a few dozen cherries a cherry-pitter may feel like a good idea. We have one and love it, even if it gets used just a few months of the year.
How Long? About 45 minutes, with 10-15 minutes of active time. An anytime dish….any time you have cherries.
- 1 pound sweet cherries (preferably Bing), washed and pitted
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1 pinch salt
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Sweet butter, for greasing baking dishes
- Place a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a baking dish large enough to fit the cherries in one layer. Add the cherries to the dish and sprinkle with the lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon and 1/3 cup sugar. Bake the fruit until tender, about 15 minutes, stir a few times during cooking. When done, drain the cherries and reserve the juice in a small saucepan.
- Increase the temperature of the oven to 375 degrees. Butter 4 ramekins (or a gratin dish) and arrange the cherries in a single layer in each ramekin.
- In a medium bowl, beat together the egg yolk and sugar until well blended. Beat in the flour, vanilla, almond extract and cream until well combined. Beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks (easiest with an electric hand mixer). Stir a small amount of the whites into the batter then gently fold the rest of the whites into the batter. Pour the batter over the fruit in the ramekins. Then place the ramekins in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the batter has puffed and browned.
- While the clafoutis bakes reduce the reserved cherry juice, using medium heat, into a thin syrup. When the clafoutis is done, dust with powdered sugar and a drizzle of the syrup. Serve.