You know what? I’m having a fantastic summer. Life is lovely; juicy opportunities for personal and professional development are cropping up left and right; we’re going to Napa in one month, and — I’m thrilled.
It’s terrible how little I like to talk about this, how fearful even the most level-headed of us can be of jinxing out all the good in the world by bringing it up. I mean, really. There is a difference between flaunting or bragging about a good life and celebrating it, or at least there ought to be. Did I tell you Alex and I had a little paper airplane flying contest before we went to bed two nights ago? Yeah, things are that kind of fun.
And then there are the cherries. We’re just swimming in them, a big bowl of cliche-come-true. Two days ago, they arrived at our apartment via UPS in a refrigerated foil package from Batch’s Best Family Farms in Chelan, Washington, via ChefShop.com. They’re enormous, “so sweet and so cold,” I feel incredibly indulgent with my fuchsia-stained fingernails and a belly full of ruined meals because I can’t quit snacking on them. I keep thinking back to when I first moved to New York seven years ago now, and I was so broke all the time that cherries, with their inevitable eight-buck price tag for little more than two handfuls, were just not something I could eat as often as I wanted, which you know was daily.
And now there’s this. Piles and piles of garnet marbles, such perfection in their original format that I felt guilty baking many of them into Ceres & Bacchus’s Clafoutis two nights ago-until I tried it. What a glorious dessert, more like a thick crepe than any cake I’ve ever had, and even better cold the following day with a scoop of plain yogurt.
If you’ve never made cherry clafoutis, this will be a treat. A real one-bowl show-off, and get this, if you’re going for tradition-and oh, you will once you learn how much easier it will make your life-you leave the pits in. Larousse Gastronomique and other traditionalists insist that the pits impart an almond flavor when baked within the custard, something no authentic clafoutis should be deprived of. Clafoutis is often made with plums or prunes (always soaked first in Armagnac), apples, or blackberries, but some remind you that this is not a clafoutis but a flognarde.
You know what I say? I say there are about twenty cherries left in the fridge, and it’s time for lunch. I hope you have a swell weekend.
Clafoutis are baked flan-like cakes hailing from the Limousin region of France. It makes a lovely afternoon snack/tea cake, or brunch dish.
I make clafoutis with a recipe from the late food blog Ceres & Bacchus. My tweaks are swapping the vanilla extract for almond and adding more than 2 cups of cherries. What’s untraditional about this clafoutis is the inclusion of butter (initially eight tablespoons, but I find 6 to be a better level). Still, it makes all the difference. Clafoutis detractors will usually complain that they can be “rubbery,” “bland,” “eggy,” or “omelet-like.” I am convinced this lives up to its custard promise because of the butter.
A traditional Limousin clafoutis contains unpitted cherries. The pits contain amygdalin, which makes almond extract taste what we believe is almonds. It is said that the unpitted cherries will release a little of this complementary flavor into the clafoutis in the oven. Thus, it’s entirely up to you to pit them. Pitted, they’re a safer bet for kids that might forget to spit them out. Unpitted, you can be spectacularly lazy in the name of authenticity. I bet you cannot guess which way I make it.
Three large eggs
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
Six tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more to the butter dish
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
A couple of pinches of salt
1 cup (235 ml) milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Two teaspoons brandy or rum (optional)
Two generous (245 grams) cups of sweet cherries, pitted if you wish
Heat oven to 400F. Beat the sugar and eggs together with a whisk until they are lighter in color. Gradually add butter, beating to incorporate. Add the flour and salt all at once and whisk until the batter is homogeneous. Next, slowly pour in the milk a little at a time. Add the extract, brandy, or rum if you are using it, mixing well. The batter should be very smooth and shiny.
Place the cherries in a buttered glass or earthenware baking dish, cake pan (9 or 10 inches in diameter), or skillet that can go in the oven. (I use a 9-inch cake pan.) Pour the batter over the fruit. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until slightly browned and almost entirely set in the middle. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving in wedges. I like it dusted with powdered sugar.