Clafoutis is one of my favorite things to bake. This rustic dessert originated in the Limousin region of central France. Basically it’s a custard poured over fruit and baked in the oven. Traditionally clafoutis is made with cherries, but apples, pears, berries and plums are also used. Some French recipes call for the cherry pits to be left in for depth of flavor, however, it’s not worth breaking a tooth. Preparing clafoutis is simple: just place pitted cherries in a baking dish and pour over the batter. Pop it in the oven and wait for the most heavenly aroma to fill the kitchen: cherries, sweet vanilla, and almond. It would be safe to say there are as many different recipes for clafoutis as there are cooks, and I encourage you to try them all!
I can’t just make a recipe as it is. I like to pick and choose the best parts of different recipes and combine them into one. Today, I started with a recipe from MarthaStewart.com for Cherry Clafouti. I liked the idea of a custard that could be enjoyed at brunch or for dessert after supper. Her recipe is simple and straightforward with tangy creme fraiche to balance the sugar. What was Martha’s recipe lacking for me? Complexity and depth of flavor. I found a recipe for Cherry-Almond Clafoutis in A Platter of Figs by David Tanis. He uses 2 pounds of cherries and so the recipe quantity was a bit much for me. I’m not feeding 10 people, rather just the husband and myself. The recipe called for whole almonds, almond extract, and a splash of kirsch. It inspired me to replace some of the vanilla extract in Martha Stewart’s recipe with pure almond extract to add that je ne sais quoi. Cherries and almonds are a very special pairing. It is said that almonds make cherries taste more like cherries, which I find fascinating. Experiment with different recipes and give clafoutis a try. It’s sure to become a family favorite.
Recipe for Cherry Clafoutis
Clafoutis is best enjoyed the same day it is made. Serve at brunch with creme fraiche or for dessert with whipped cream.
unsalted butter, for dish
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used my own vanilla bean infused sugar)
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup creme fraiche
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces cherries, halved and pitted
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle some of your 1/2 cup sugar into the buttered dish. In a medium bowl whisk flour, eggs and egg yolk to combine. Then whisk in creme fraiche, milk, the rest of the granulated sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt.
Arrange the cherries in the buttered baking dish. Strain the batter through a fine sieve over the cherries. Bake the clafoutis for 30 minutes or until the top is nicely browned, the custard is set, and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the clafoutis from the oven and serve warm with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
A Few Thoughts on Baking
Put the baking dish filled with cherries on a half sheet pan (baking sheet with sides) before pouring the batter in. It’s easier to transfer the clafoutis to the oven this way. This method is a good idea for making quiches or anything that requires liquid batter in a dish that will go into the oven.
Preheat the oven fully. You need to purchase a cheap thermometer that sits on the oven rack to verify your oven temperature. Home ovens may not be at the temperature that the display reports. A nice hot oven is important in helping your baked goods rise. It’s okay if the oven is slightly hot, because you can always moderate the temp once your clafoutis is inside. While you don’t want to burn anything, a little color is good in baking- it’s a sign of carmelization and flavor. Also, please don’t open your oven door during baking unless you want to deflate your custard. Not good. Opening the oven door causes temperature variations and these are no bueno for baking.
I used my own vanilla bean infused sugar for the clafoutis. It’s these little details that result in a dessert with deep, complex flavors. After I use a vanilla bean for homemade ice cream or whatever, I rinse the bean and allow it to sit out to become dry and brittle. Then I put the beans in a jar with granulated sugar. Vanilla flavor infuses into the sugar which can be used for baking or in coffee or any purpose you think of. Voila! Vanilla sugar. Yum.