Thursday, July 15, 2010


Perhaps you’ve never tried making clafouti because it seems exotic and complicated. It intimidates you and it has a funny name. Or, perhaps you’ve never tried making clafouti because you’ve never heard of it and have no idea what the heck it is.

Well, clafouti is a French dessert that is sort of a cross between a custard and a cake. It sets up a little more firmly than custard, but doesn’t achieve anything like the airy sponginess of a typical cake. It’s sort of like a big fat pancake, sort of like a dense flan. It’s a little eggy, not really sweet, and is typically loaded with seasonal fruit.

Traditionally, clafouti is made with cherries, which is what I did recently with some super-ripe, dark burgundy-colored Bing cherries. Supposedly, an old-school approach involves leaving the stones in the cherries for additional flavor. I’m not so sure that whatever extra flavor the cherry pits might bring along is worth the potential extra dental bills, so I removed them. I don’t have any kind of fancy cherry pitter, so I just cut the cherry flesh away from the stones. It’s pretty tedious, I suppose, but the ultimate result is dessert, so it’s worth it.

I worked from a recipe in Joy of Cooking for this clafouti. I used a well-seasoned cast iron pan 10 inches in diameter to bake it, but you could use another oven-proof vessel of similar size. The technique is really quite simple, not much different that that of a frittata. Place the cherries in the bottom of a pan, whisk up some eggs, sugar, flour and a little other flavoring (I used cherry liqueur and vanilla extract) and pour it over the cherries. Instead of stirring up the egg mixture on the stovetop like in a frittata, however, the clafouti is left on its own in the oven to puff up as it bakes. I also sprinkled sliced almonds on the top before putting it in the oven.

Though it puffs in the oven, the clafouti will collapse as it cools. The resulting cake/custard is dense and quite rich, but it isn’t too sweet, so the cherries are free to fill that role. It was very good hot or warm, but I didn’t try it cold. The leftovers heated surprisingly well in the microwave. My guess is that the flour in the mixture stabilizes the custard enough so that the reheated clafouti doesn’t turn mushy or watery. If you and your dinner guests don’t eat the whole pan of cherry clafouti for dessert, I highly recommend heating up what is left the next morning. Eggs, milk and fruit are usually pictured as “part of this complete breakfast” after all.

Cherry Clafouti
Adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition.
1 pound bing cherries
4 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon cherry liqueur (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
butter for the baking pan
¼ cup sliced almonds
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Remove pits from the cherries and coarsely chop. Set aside.

2. Whisk the eggs together in a medium-sized bowl. Gradually bean in the sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is very smooth and slightly thickened.

3. Whisk in the milk, liqueur if using, and vanilla extract. Slowly whisk in the flour and salt, trying to avoid creating large lumps.

4. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or deep dish pie pan). Arrange the pitted cherries in the bottom of the pan. Pour the egg mixture over the cherries. Sprinkle the almonds over the top.

5. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Continue baking 30-35 minutes more, or until the top is well puffed and the custard-like cake is no longer runny, but well-set.

6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack or trivet for at least 10 minutes. The clafouti will collapse upon standing. If the clafouti is sticking to the sides of the pan, run a knife along the edges to loosen it. Cut into wedges and serve.

Makes 8-10 servings. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. They reheat in the microwave quite well and make a pretty good breakfast. This would also probably be good served with ice cream or whipped cream.

Another recipe with cherries: Cherry Plum Crisp

One Year Ago: Sauteed Cabbage with Caraway and Cider Vinegar

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