Whenever cherries come into season, I often think of cherry clafouti, not necessarily because I love the dish, but because I love the way the word “clafouti,” in all its French charm rolls off the tongue. Say it: clafouti (kla-foo-TEE).
What exactly is clafouti?
“Food Lover’s Companion” says it’s a “country French dessert … made by topping a layer of fresh fruit with batter. After baking, it’s served hot, sometimes with cream. Some clafoutis have a cakelike topping while others are more like a pudding. Though cherries are traditional, any fruit such as plums, peaches or pears can be used.”
Most versions I’ve had have been on the cake side, dense and a little too bready with the occasional brightness of fresh cherry breaking through all that flour. The latest issue of Cooks Illustrated goes strictly for the custard version, and it’s what I tried recently with good results.
I wasn’t expecting the custard aspect of the dish (I’ll admit I only read the recipe and not the page-long background), so the batter described was far more liquid than I was expecting. But it only had 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour to its load of eggs, cream and milk. The end result was light and airy, an eggy and rich encasement for those delicious cherries.
One twist of this recipe is that the folks at Cooks Illustrated suggest roasting the cherries first. “Briefly roasting halved and pitted cherries for our clafouti adds a little time to traditional approaches that call for tossing whole raw cherries into the batter — but we think it’s worth the effort,” they write. “Instead of bursting and leaking juices into the custard, which leave it soggy and stained red, the fruit adds bright, sweet-tart flavor that complements the rich custard.”
I used coconut palm sugar instead of white sugar, which left the batter darker than expected. No matter. It tasted good. A word of caution: The recipe says that the edges will be dark brown; mine burned slightly, but they were easily removed before serving. If they burn too much before the center reaches the desired temperature, just top everything with whipped cream, which covers all defects.
So, while cherries are in season, enjoy them in this light and delicious dessert, And if you want to know more about clafouti, look for the July and August 2015 Cooks Illustrated.
“We prefer whole milk in this recipe,” Cooks Illustrated writes, “but 1 or 2 percent low-fat milk may be substituted. Do not substitute frozen cherries for the fresh cherries.”
1 1/2 pounds fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup flour, divided use
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Adjust oven racks to lowest and upper middle positions; place 12-inch skillet on lower rack and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place cherries, cut side up, on sheet. Roast cherries on upper rack until just tender and cut sides look dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer cherries to medium bowl, toss with lemon juice, and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine 2 teaspoons flour and cinnamon in small bowl; dust flour mixture evenly over cherries and toss to coat thoroughly.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until smooth and pale, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and milk until incorporated.
Remove skillet (skillet handle will be hot) from oven and set on wire rack. Add butter and swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet (butter will melt and brown quickly). Pour batter into skillet and arrange cherries evenly on top (some will sink). Return skillet to lower rack and bake until clafouti puffs and turns golden brown (edges will be dark brown) and center registers 195 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating skillet halfway through baking. Transfer skillet to wire rack and let cool for 25 minutes. Sprinkle clafouti evenly with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
From Cooks Illustrated
For a more cakelike version of clafouti, click here.