Clafoutis, French Sweet Cherry Dessert
Clafoutis, sometimes spelled clafouti, and pronounced cla-foo-tee, is a French dessert of sweet cherries baked in a custardy batter. It is served warm dusted with powdered sugar and is very easy to make. You don’t even have to pit the cherries! At least that’s what some baking purists claim. But unless you’re going to eat the dessert out of doors where spitting out cherry pits is not a problem, I recommend pitting.
Clafoutis originated in Limousin, a region in south central France, where black cherries grow well. But you can make clafoutis with all sorts of other fruits including raspberries, sour cherries, apples, prunes, blackberries, or cranberries. The dish’s name comes from the Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning “to fill.” In this case, a custard filled with cherries. Occitan is a Romance Language spoken in several European areas including southern France and parts of Italy and Spain.
The batter for this clafoutis is thin and liquidy but it bakes into a thick custardy texture that is easy to cut and holds its shape. I think clafoutis is most successful when made in a cast-iron skillet where it puffs majestically into something that looks like a Dutch Baby. Lacking such a pan, be sure to use a 2-inch-deep deep round ovenproof dish about 10 inches in diameter. Clafoutis is delicious all by itself.
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound sweet red cherries
6 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons kirsch (cherry brandy, see NOTE)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (dip dry measure into flour, fill to overflowing, and sweep off excess with a straight edge)
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Smear the butter onto the bottom and sides of a 9- to 10-inch cast-iron skillet or deep round baking dish (see headnote).
Pit the cherries. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and salt with a whisk or Granny fork for 1 minute until the whites and yolks are thoroughly combined. Add the vanilla, kirsch, milk, and sugar and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Put the flour into a small bowl and whisk in about 1 cup of the liquid to make a smooth, thick batter. Add the batter back to the liquid in the large bowl and whisk smooth. The batter will be very thin.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the cherries on top.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the clafoutis is puffed and browned on the edges and on the bottom. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
Cool and serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar. If cherries were very juicy the juices may pool on top of the custard. They’ll settle into the custard as the clafoutis cools.
Refrigerate leftovers. Reheat in a warm oven for about 10 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.
NOTE: Kirsch is the liqueur of choice, but feel free to use Grand Marnier or Cointreau or Curaçao. And if you don’t want to use alcohol, just omit it.